Opportunity Won’t Knock

There was an interesting development in how the Government have decided to handle (spin) the housing crisis this week. After a raw and at times brutal interview with a homeless Secondary School student named ‘Amanda’, the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, rather than feel ashamed decided he’d side with the poor girl. He said:

“The piece that was broadcast this morning on Morning Ireland is probably one of the most important contributions to this debate that we’ve heard in the past number of months,” he said.

“The bravery that they had this morning to come out and tell the country about their particular circumstance was very brave but very important for people to understand what these families are facing.”

The family tragedy compounded by a Minister who is calling this crisis a debate. The time for debating is long gone. It is time for action, real decisive action.

Campaigns like #MyNameIs have raised the consciousness of the general public and the sense that more must be done is palpable. In reality we have the means to take much more ambitious steps than the planned 23,000 social housing homes by 2021.

More importantly, even with this limited plan, who will be held accountable should this target not be met? Given that only 22 of the 1,500 promised by next year have been completed to date, can we believe in any new plan? Where is the accountability?

The lack of accountability in Ireland undermines many facets of our society. But to just focus on housing we can identify the problem quite quickly. Unlike many other European countries, including Belgium, France and the UK, housing is not a right in Ireland.

In Ireland, under the 1988 Housing Act, our citizens run into a verbal wall.

 

10.—(1) A housing authority may, subject to such regulations as may be made by the Minister under this section –

  1. make arrangements, including financial arrangements, with a body approved of by the Minister for the purposes of section 5 for the provision by that body of accommodation for a homeless person,
  2. provide a homeless person with such assistance, including financial assistance, as the authority consider appropriate, or
  3. rent accommodation, arrange lodgings or contribute to the cost of such accommodation or lodgings for a homeless person.

2. A request for accommodation may be made to a housing authority by or on behalf of a homeless person.
The blocker in the system is a small word that covers all manner of excuses. The word is ‘may’; as in the housing authority may or it may not do a,b,c or d.

It is not compulsory, and if it is not compulsory then there is no accountability. If there’s no accountability then there’s no repercussions for missing targets. Until may becomes must and the power to act become a duty to act then nothing will change.

This crisis didn’t sneak up on us either. It is the result of decades of bad planning and even worse policy making. We have gone, progressively since the 1970’s, from State provision to a combination of NGO and Market provision.  Both are failing – for different reasons.  The NGO solution is common – the UK for example has a similar situation, with the important distinction that the State in UK decanted housing stock progressively to the NGO’s, thereby providing a balance sheet base from which the NGO’s could leverage collateral to fund future housing stock.
The NGO model is endemic in Irish Social policy – the same approach applies in Health, Disability Services and in the past in areas such as industrial schools.  Whatever about its origins – a pauper State seeking access to property and services from institutions such as the Church, it now represents either an abdication of responsibility or, worse, an adherence to Victorian attitudes to relative poverty and provision, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  Without diverting from the current crisis, this needs to be reassessed in all areas of Social policy.

Given the intolerable crisis we have today – 8,160 people homeless and nearly 3,000 children – anything less than “The State Will Provide” response from the Government will not suffice. Even if we are to only do so on a temporary basis until the crisis has abated.

There’s nothing in EU Law that forbids a country from acting to protect its citizens. Therefore it follows that there is nothing in EU Law (including the Debt to GDP rules) that can prevent the government from raising money to build social housing. The “off balance sheet” argument is a red herring. They raised over €5bn to pay off the IMF. To not do the same for our citizens is an indictment of Right Wing slaves to the “free” market ideology. It is an indictment of us as a society and a country.

It is within our powers, as the 14th wealthiest country in the world, to build 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months. Any legislative roadblocks can and must be given the NAMA treatment. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.

If we can create NAMA overnight, ignoring legislative processes, to stop a Bank crisis and we refuse to do the same for our citizens then any plans from the Third Emergency Housing Summit are only window dressing.

The pressure is on, Fine Gael are rattled by claims that their ideological blindness to the less well off in our country have exacerbated this crisis. Campaigns like #MyNameIs have embarrassed them and stung a Taoiseach obsessed with his image into action. This action must happen now and it must be on a scale that dwarfs the current 2021 plan.

Time is of the essence here. While things are bad they are about to get much worse. There’s 14,367 Buy To Let Mortgages at repossession stage. There is no incentive or reason for the Vulture Funds that own these properties to rent them to the social housing/homeless part of the market. This will be like throwing petrol on a bonfire unless our government turns “may” into Must.

We have the means, the finance is available and the solutions are simple:

Make the provision of housing a right, at least until the crisis has abated.

Use the NAMA exceptionalist model to protect the citizens.

Commit to building 10,000 social houses in the next 12-18 months.

Make the Departments accountable and have repercussions for failure.

Incentivise/Legislate that the Vultures make their properties available to the Social Housing schemes.

Deliver.
Fine Gael are 84 years old today. The Taoiseach used this occasion to remind people that he wants “to build a Republic of Opportunity”. Well Leo, it’s no good waiting for opportunity to knock when you don’t have a front door.
Tony Groves  

 

Grand Centrist Station

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Centrists, the lads who say they are without ideology and the journalists who say they are “fair and balanced”. I heard Stephen Donnelly, he of the reverse Damascene Conversion, repeat the oft trotted out bastardised W.B Yeats, line that “the centre must hold” and I nearly spat my coffee on the screen.

The line is actually “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The anarchy the poet was writing of was “The Second Coming“.  Sadly, I don’t think any saviour is coming to save us.

These self-proclaimed Centrists are in denial about the world we currently occupy. Their motivations for self-delusion vary. Some, aware that Right Wing evil is on the march, claim to be newly Centrist in order to distance themselves from their more radical brethren.

I’m thinking of the “Tory Boy” formerly known as Leo Varadkar (or have I got that the wrong way around?). He of the Far Right Centre “proposal of offering only three months dole to migrant workers as an incentive to leave” and of “privatising up to 20 Dublin Bus routes”. Leo the Centrist is Leo the Liar. He’s the leader of a core of Right Wing Fine Gael, that is soon to inherit the party.

Enda Kenny, while a lot of things (and many of those Right Wing led) is not like Leo. His ideology can be summed up as Power for Powers sake.

Which also got me thinking. So many of the new Centrists are declaring their (recently discovered) Social Democratic roots that RTE might consider doing a political version of: Who Do You Think You Are?  They could call it: Who Do You Think The Public Should Think You Are?

Imagine it, we could have Alan Kelly retelling his “spay them with sewage” story and say the sewage was a metaphor for the dirty world of Centrist Politics. I’d post a link to his despicable actions, but Alan (classless man that he is) has had them removed from Google Searches.

We could have Fianna Fail do a retrofitted retrospective half hour about their “populist” roots, saying that populist is actually the Irish word for Centrist. Us plebeians would be none the wiser. Sure if it was on RTE, we’d say, it must be true.

Finally, we could have the alphabet soup AAA/PBP tell us they’re opposed. “To what exactly are you opposed?” the narrator could ask. “We don’t have to engage with you, you’re part of the machine” they could yell back. At least you know where they stand. Full Marx, indeed.

Despite what you hear so often, the so called Hard Left are not the biggest threat to Irish Politics. At least not in the sense of a threat to a progressive Irish Politics. No, that distinction lies firmly with the Centrists. They are the advocates for nothing. They are the Minister for Health Simon Harris, getting genuinely upset that nobody is doing anything about 50,000 people hidden from Hospital Waiting Lists.

The Centrists are Simon Coveney asking what more can NGOs like Focus Ireland and the Simon Community do, to enable him to do less. Centrists do not exist. Those who have no political ideology have no business being in politics. Those who bleat that the “centre must hold”, are saying their hold on the levers of power must remain.

Nothing will improve under this Centrism. In fact, I can think of only one man who was a true Centrist. In 1967 Muhammad Ali was stripped of his world title over refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.

His lawyer, Hayden C. Covington when asked why he was risking his career “by getting in the middle” of this case said “I want to be at the centre of this, because only by getting to the centre of it can I bring about change.” Our current Centrist Cohort only want to sit in one place, of no use to those who elected them.

I remember Tolstoy telling Chekhov that his centrist writing needed a world view; a perspective in order to inspire people.

I remember Lord Acton’s warning about Centrist’s. “Political atheism: End justifies the means. This is the most widespread of all the opinions hostile to liberty.”

And I’ll let Muhammad Ali himself have the last word. When under pressure to join the herd and stay in the Centrist Flock he replied “I don’t have to be what you want me to be”.

 

Tony Groves February 2017 Muhammad Ali Vietnam

 

 

But, But, But…

So many outrages, so little time. Where to start?

Kellyanne Conway (the campaign manager of the regime) went on Seth Meyers CNN Show and said that the briefing about the Intelligence Briefing regarding Trumps Russian indiscretions didn’t happen, before saying BUT “he received that intelligence briefing “. The immediate contradiction went unchecked.In fairness to Meyers, it’s nearly impossible to separate all the lies, contradictions and alternative facts from the occasional truths.

Back home the Rule of But is in full effect. In Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) the Rule of But can be roughly defined as “everything before But was a lie”.

For example, Right Wing Paul Williams (doing a poor Ivan Yates impersonation) has opened the Newstalk Breakfast show twice this week with rants that go: “Firstly let me say that Trump is repugnant and abhorrent. BUT, I take great satisfaction from the angst he is causing for Leftie Lovies”.

Neuro-linguistic Programming tells you that Paul doesn’t really think Trump is repugnant or abhorrent. At the very least he feels he’s less repugnant than Paul Murphy or Richard Boyd Barrett. Paul reveals himself in his chosen outrage, and the face he shows is a deeply unpleasant one.

The Left aren’t helping themselves either. Apart from the continual infighting, they need to realise that you don’t fight isolationism with isolationism. You fight it with openness. We don’t need to damage relations with America to make a statement about Trump. We need to do right by refugees and become an example for how immigration is a positive thing for society.

Beating chests and pulling out hair plays into the narrative of “The Left have some great aspirations BUT they’re to erratic to elect. 

We need to tackle our established racist practice of Direct Provision and honour the Right of Safe Refuge, while ripping down the current industry of inhumane profiting from human misery. We need to show how it’s a Right Wing Government that turned misery into a market.

I’m not going to go on too much here. Mark Malone has written extensively on Direct Provision and I’d suggest you read his piece here.

I’m going back to BUT. It’s becoming more important than ever that we challenge the BUT. The Trump is bad, BUT Saudia Arabia, ISIS, FGM etc etc. This whataboutery doesn’t give us the right to do nothing. It doesn’t excuse either of the two evils. It multiplies the evil. 

We are left with the Big Bad Evil, the Lesser of 2 Evils and the Evil of doing nothing about it. 

So listen out for the BUT. Remember everything before the BUT was bullshit. Like so…

…I’m worried Paul Williams will be offended by this short piece, BUT I don’t care.
Tony Groves January 2017 

Bubble Bobble

Image result for bubble bobble

There’s a myth doing the rounds, a tale that WE are living in dangerous times. Fascism is on the rise, hard won human rights are under threat and that the relative benign accords that brought peace to the Western World are under threat. Don’t get me wrong, all of this is true. The myth is that the challenges of our time are unique to our time. They are not.

Cicero warned, “The only thing we learn from history, is that we never learn anything from history”.

In 1861, the American Civil War kicked off. The beleaguered Native American Indian population felt sure they would get some respite, while Bluecoat fought Graycoat. They were sadly mistaken.

By the time the war had started there was probably less than 300,000 Native Americans left. There numbers had been “culled” by about two thirds since the European settlers arrived in Virginia and New England, around 1607.

The White Man had come and he had come in Yuuuge numbers, more than 30 million of them by the this period. No pesky war was going to slow their march and no call to arms would slake their thirst for what they needed above all else, Land.

The Indians were driven from area to area, denied access to hunting grounds and forced into reservations. These reservations were little better than open air prisons. Even some of the Soldiers, paid to make sure the Indians didn’t leave, wrote letters beseeching Washington for better conditions. One put it; “The cost to us will be no more than $1 million per year. Which seems high, but is very little when you consider the wealth we have attained from the lands they have given up”. Such honest entreaties fell on deaf ears.

Fast forward to 1891 and we discover that the White Settlers have become the dispossessed. Farmers in the South are losing their land to banks, big business and rail-roads. Workers in the East are exploited by super-rich businessmen. Wealth is created at a faster rate than at any time before in American history, yet as Henry Georges Progress & Poverty explained, the majority of people are getting poorer. The key driver of the inequality, Land.

It was a result of this inequality that the first Populist Party (The People’s Party) was born. Populist’s allied themselves with workers, joined with trade union movements and sought to tackle the inequality endemic in American Society.

It failed. But not before scaring the life out of banks, elites and the Democratic Party.

Today our media commentators throw the term Populist around like confetti at a wedding. Dare to speak about growing inequality and you’re quickly bracketed with the mad Populist, Donald Trump. The fact that they also scream “Populist” every time Paul Murphy opens a packet of Tayto should be the end of it. I mean, if  we are told that Trumps a Populist AND that his ideological opposite Paul Murphy is a Populist, then how dare they get their collective knickers in a twist when report after report shows that trust of the media is at an all time low.

Back to the Land.

Today I received an 84 page document entitled: The 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017. Rating Middle-Income Housing Affordability. A riveting title, it’s sure to be a bestseller. Only it should be. It should be compulsory reading for our Politician’s, our Planners and anyone who gives a damn about inequality.

What this body of real experts (as opposed to the experts who brought us Irish Water) do is work out how affordable is a house, based on dividing the average price by the average wage.

fullsizerender-3

 

The good news for Ireland is that we currently have zero Severely Unaffordable housing markets. Great news, right…

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The bad news for Ireland is that we are fast on our way to getting there

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Look at the warning above. Dublin has gone from Moderately Unaffordable 3.3, to a Seriously Unaffordable 4.7, in less than 5 years. As I type we are probably tipping over into the Severely Unaffordable zone of 5.1 or over. Think this is only a Dublin problem, think again. Galway and Cork are rapidly climbing the charts.

Without denigrating Cicero, I refuse to believe that we cant’t learn anything from history. History teaches us that a malfunctioning Land market breeds inequality. Inequality means doom. Blame becomes the currency and it’s spent on creating division and fear. Elites, deriding the rise of Populism, can have only themselves to blame.But they use their resources to deflect blame. So it manifests itself in uglier, Trumpian ways.

Ireland has a chance to avoid this “fear of the other” and blame-throwing culture. We had an Unaffordable Score of 6 at the top of the Celtic Tiger insanity. If we don’t act urgently, we will return to that level.

Remember these facts when you hear developers aren’t building because of low profits. How can profits be too low and Unaffordability so high?

Remember these facts when trying to reconcile the the Governments Housing Plan has less ambition towards building Social Houses than we had in the darkest days of the Irish Economy.

These are facts, don’t listen to the alternative facts, post-truths or fake news. A lie is a lie is a lie.

We don’t have a deficit of Land. We have a deficit of vision.

When the American Indians were driven to the edge of extinction, the American Settlers knew what riches they had acquired, calling it a land “whose value can hardly be estimated…a princely realm.”

Dublin has over 60 hectares of vacant land, a princely realm indeed. We don’t need incentives for developers, the only incentive for building we need is the FACT that we are rapidly headed back to Property Bubble Land. And Bubbles Burst.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. If we farcically allow this to happen again, then the joke will be on all of us.

Tony Groves January 2017

Pride In Prejudices

It’s been a tough year for the “liberal elite”. What with the Brexit vote, the Trump election and the death of many of our musical heroes. 2016 has not been a good year for those of us who hope for a more progressive and inclusive society.

Let me put on record that “liberal elite” is the dumbest smear I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I’ve been called Populist, Lefty Loony, Open Borders Lunatic and many more colourful and nasty things, but calling someone “elite” as a smear is the most (oxy)moronic thing yet.

“Hey you, you’re better informed than me, up yours!” is not really a put down. It’s more a declaration that the disenfranchised have decided that they reason for their disenfranchisement is self-important liberals. They have a very valid point, up to a point. Liberals are guilty in thinking that just because their own circle of influence (echo chamber) thinks the same as they do, then the rest of the world does to.

Liberals have championed change quicker than many people have wanted. Liberals have lost sight of getting buy in and THEN ushering in progressive changes. Liberals have exuded a sense of knowing what’s best and not taken time to consider the fears, real or imagined, by large parts of the population.

You might imagine the Trump election has obliterated that Liberal world view and sense of intellectual smugness . But you’d be wrong. Despite calling every major event/election wrong over the past year the Liberal Ideology, rather than look at its flaws, has decided to blame everyone else for being stupid.

Worse, they are still pretending they were right in their wrongs. Less than a week after the Trump victory, we are hearing “liberals” saying idiotic things like “Trump is moderating“, “He’s rolling back on his election promises” and only this morning I was told “He’s moving back toward the political middle ground”.

Pardon me for one second, but are you insane?

President Elect Trump, has appointed Steve Bannon, Anti-Semite and CEO of Breitbart (the thinking Klansman’s favourite new source) as his chief strategist. He has a Vice President elect in Mike Pence, who believes homosexuality can be cured with “conversion therapy. Trump is already looking to appoint a Conservative Judge to the Supreme Court, in order to repeal Roe vs Wade. Yet, our “Liberal Elite” are reassuring us (and perhaps more themselves) with assertions that the Trump Presidency won’t be that bad after all.

Huh?

Mike Pence thinks “evolution is a theory” and that the “fundamental truth” is “that God created the heavens and the Earth, the seas and all that’s in them.” Donald Trump thinks “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

Moderating modernity maybe…

As someone who has correctly been called a Liberal, but has constantly called out the effects of the The Age of Austerity on people, I accept how wrong I was. I was wrong in thinking Trump could not win. I underestimated the depths of anti-establishment feelings (even as someone who has anti-establishment sympathies myself) and listened too much to my own echo chamber of Liberal reassurance. If this acknowledgement of how wrong I was proves anything, it proves the Liberal Elite smear is a myth.

BUT, if the commentariat/media/social media/academia etc continue to normalise Trumps outrageous views and preach tolerance of his intolerance, then it also proves that echo chambers are more dangerous than ever imagined. Locked away in our comfort-zone bubbles, ignoring reality, is not helping create a world of inclusion. Sending a tweet is not activism. By the time we wake up to our shortcomings and peek outside, it might be too late to stop the march of illiberal immorality.

 

Tony Groves November 2016 Image result for planet of the apes

June -22nd- 2016: The UK will vote Remain 

November -8th- 2016: The US will vote Clinton

May 2018: There’s no way President Trump will fire those Nukes!

October 2028: I’m not doing what that monkey tells me!

Freeing Up Free Trade

“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected” – The Avett Brothers

Dan O’Brien has a certain Godlike quality. Not in the sense of infallibility, nor in the sense of reassurance in his doctrine. No, Dan has a godlike Omnipresent. The man is EVERYWHERE!

Pre-election, when Dan told us Trump will not win, he was on RTE discussing the need for the government to stand up to Public Sector Unions and not give in to pay demands. Post-Trump-Election (PTE), he was back on RTE, warning us that the biggest threat to Ireland in the PTE era is the demise of “free” trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Really RTE? The rise of a misogynist, racist and dangerous demagogue can be glossed over? But what about TTIP?

I’m not picking on Dan. I think he’s a clever and erudite man who assesses data and delivers the best hypothesis’s he can. His hypothesis are always well structured and sensible. Unfortunately for Dan, they are formed in the same echo chamber of sameness that was resoundingly battered and won’t survive the PTE.

Free Trade and the march of globalisation has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system in the worlds history. But to quote Brian Hayes, “we represent 10% of the worlds population in Europe, 20% of the wealth and we spend 50% of all the public expenditure in the world.”

He’s right, and he’s wrong. He’s right that this formula is unsustainable, he’s wrong if he thinks TTIP is the answer. The wealth divide cannot be closed by agreements that will create wealth but not transfer it to those at the bottom. I’m also choosing to not explore the fact that these stats show (on a balance of trade model) that the EU is a wealth consumer and not a wealth creator.

I’ve written twice already about TTIP, in The TTIP of the Iceberg and The TTIP’ing Point. I’ve expressed concerns about food safety standards. I’m worried that the Establishment of a Multilateral Investment Court for investment dispute resolution will lead to individual states (and citizenry) losing out to Multinational Corporate Profiteering.

I am a FIRM believer in the Free Market. but with constraints. Those constraints must be on the side of the worker, taxpayer and individual states. These newer “free” trade deals seem to favour the Largest of the Large Multinational Corporations.

I say “seem to favour” because I haven’t seen the agreement, apart from the Wikileaks information. I guess that means TTIP is a free trade agreement, in the sense that it is free from public oversight. If our political class have learned anything from the new PTE era, surely it is that vast swathes of the public no longer trust them, rightly or wrongly.

The PTE era is here now. Populism is popular. The Davos Class of Government has ushered in the distrust of people across the globe. The G20 has been put on notice. Don’t pose for selfies with world leaders at extravagant banquets and then come home to tell a Junior Doctor that she is being unrealistic in her pay demands.

Free Trade must survive in the PTE era. Isolationism and protectionism can only lead to regression, both in terms of human rights and (Dan’s beloved) wealth creation. But it must be mutually beneficial to all parties and not just a Corporate/Geopolitical Manoeuvring Tool. It will take imagination, and it will mean our “experts” will need to step out of their echo chamber of convenience.

I’m not mourning the (apparent) demise of TTIP. I am optimistic that revised free trade deals, that will deliver for people, are visible on the edge of the horizon. Or is that the mushroom cloud of disregarded public anger?

 

Tony Groves November 2016 Image result for ttip cartoon

 

 

 

Unthinking Tanks

Financial Doping has become a term synonymous with Premier League Football. Nouveau Riche clubs, like Chelsea and Manchester City, have cut the legs off the “level playing field”, in order to tilt success in their direction.

Seemingly unlimited supplies of Billionaire Investors are lining up to buy a “franchise”. The Premiership need only rid itself of that pesky relegation trapdoor (the main hindrance to further investment) and a tidal wave of (even more) excessive spending would wash in.

In an excellent assessment of the state of the modern GAA, a hat-less Ewan McKenna pointed out the financial doping done, which helped make Dublin the unstoppable juggernaut that it is today. He is right, and as a Dub fan, I don’t like him for it.

But sneering at financial doping is a niche sport. You see, those who are claiming the high moral ground would quickly flip into soft denial, should their particular passion become the plaything of a billionaire investor. And it’s not limited to the field of sport.

Think about it, or more precisely, think about the Think Tanks. We are constantly fed the opinions of so called experts attached to “independent” think tanks as Facts. From the OECD to ITI and any other acronym you can devise, we are constantly given expert advice, by experts in giving advice, that suits their paymasters*. This, I’d argue, is financial doping of the public narrative.

Recently, the media had a multi-joy-gasm at the Irish Tax Institutes recent report on our “overly progressive taxes”. But just how independent is the ITI?

A quick look at the ITI’s website confirms:

“The Institute places particular importance on our EU and global alliancesWe engage with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. Our efforts are assisted by liaising closely with our sister Institutes across Europe and through our involvement in the Confédération Fiscale Européenne (CFE). This is a grouping of all EU states’ tax institutes – of which the Irish Tax Institute is a leading member.

With this emphasis on our EU services, the Institute is well placed to alert members to developments as they unfold in Brussels. In the course of regular Institute delegations to Brussels, we meet regularly with Commissioners, Commission officials, MEPs and other influencers.”

They must think working with the European Commission means publishing “A Guide to Changes In Irish Tax Rules – The Global Tax Reform Agenda” on the same day the Commission had ruled that Ireland gave Apple illegal state aid. Nothing says “liaising closely” with the EU, like publishing something contrary to the EU findings. You’d almost think it was timed to support our minority government and the MNC’s!

I could go into funding and sponsorship, but I need to tread carefully and don’t want to be accused of not donning the green jersey.

Another media darling “Think Tank” the Hibernia Forum, has enjoyed a voice across all the platforms this week. This Right Wing Libertarian “forum” claims to be:

“An independent advocacy group dedicated to the principles of a free market, individual liberty and responsible and prudent Government. It seeks to build on the natural entrepreneurial instincts of Ireland and its open and progressive economic atmosphere, and attraction to foreign inward investment.”

All sounds very good; except that today’s free market is not free. Large multi-national corporations use free trade agreements as geopolitical tools to gouge larger tax free profits, uninhibited by those troublesome workers’ rights and proper regulation.

But the Hibernia Forum is flying, It’s on askaboutmoney.com, it’s on Pat Kenny Live, it’s poor-bashing in the Sunday Independent. They gloated on Twitter that “The Hibernia Forum is more in touch with the Irish Public than our politicians”, because an Irish Daily Mail opinion poll found 57% of people said we pay too much to the unemployed.

Let’s forget that this 57% stat comes from a Daily Mail’s confirmation bias driven “opinion poll”. Let’s pretend the question was not already inherently biased, I mean, who in their right minds would say we get value for our taxes in Ireland? And don’t even mention the fact that these polls are designed to fit an agenda; that of telling the squeezed middle to punch down and not up.

Let’s instead focus on the facts:

  • The Irish unemployment rate has fallen to less than 8%.
  • There are now more people at work than pre 2008 financial crisis
  • Social Welfare rates are lower than pre-crisis
  • The number of long term unemployed has decreased by 26,082, or 17%

But those facts don’t suit the “blame the poor” narrative of this Think Tank. This is a Think Tank that believes in the “equality of opportunity”, yet doesn’t want a level playing field. Imagine saying you believe in equality, but don’t believe that those less well-off should be given access to equal opportunities!

How does Brendan Burgess think poorer people will bridge the gap? The answer is, he doesn’t, nor does he care. He’s quite happy to, in his own words, “cause hardship” to those at the bottom, in the name of “free market” principles.

Important to note, I share many libertarian values. I’m against nanny statism, I believe in personal freedoms. I want prudent government spending and efficiency in public services. Crucially, unlike the Hibernia Forum, I do not want them at the expense of the poor.

These are but 2 examples of forums that are part of the Chumocracy financial doping. Essentially, we have Institutes/Forums/Think Tanks that are supported and financed by wealthy vested interests, in order to report in favour of the same vested interests. Yes, they may occasionally clash; but never in matters of challenging the status quo at the top levels.

As the Budget nears, the agenda of all these Financially Doped agencies comes into play. They make Pre-Budget Submissions, filling the airwaves with “expert” opinion; commanding the headlines with catchy pitches. They are all on message. You need and deserve a break. (True) You want the Government to cut taxes and welfare rates because the poor and working poor have it too good. (False)

In this financially doped ocean of media and experts, I’m just a small fish trying to compete with the Big Sharks. My voice will not get heard. But I’m not getting paid for this. I’m telling you that these experts are not independent. I’m saying you should look beyond the headline and examine the motives. But I’m shouting into an empty echo chamber of my own well-meaning biases; another victim of financial doping.

Tony Groves October 2016 Image result for echo chamber cartoon

*we won’t even mention that Redacted owns most of the media and “chills” the rest