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Whatever happened to the Celtic Tiger?

category national | anti-capitalism | news report author Friday January 09, 2009 10:41author by Chekov Feeney - WSM (WS 107)author email wsm_ireland at yahoo dot com Report this post to the editors

Make Them Redundant

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett commented on the US financial crisis that “it’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked, and Wall Street now looks like a nudist beach.” Well when it comes to Ireland, the receding tide of the global economy has revealed that not only were our business and political elites swimming naked, they were engaged in a great big orgy as well.

They enthusiastically built up the property pyramid and pumped a vast quantity of hot air into the great debt-bubble, while enriching themselves through dodgy loans, dodgy planning decisions and every variety of backhander known to humanity. Probably one of the most sickening things about the boom was the way that the corporate media was full of hymns of praise to the entrepreneurial skills of our great leaders.

Well the bubble eventually burst, as do all bubbles, and it is now clear that the only legacy that our glorious leaders have left us from the Celtic Tiger is a ruined economy and lots of abandoned property. Unfortunately, however, it is not the great and the good who will be paying to tidy up the mess, it’s you and me, the ordinary worker. We will pay in terms of cuts in the services the state provides us, downward pressure on our wages and benefits and most of all, the increasing possibility of finding ourselves unemployed against our wishes.

In 2008, the unemployment rate almost doubled, rising to 7.8% by November, with 277,200 people on the dole. Most of the job losses in 2008 came in the construction industry. The bad news is that 2009 will see the job losses in construction continue and spread to the rest of the real economy.

This is because our genius free-market entrepreneurs came up with a brilliant new business model based on what they called ‘leverage’. Basically, this meant that it was more profitable to build businesses with borrowed money than it was to do so through capital investment, all thanks to the fact that the bankers’ chums in government wrote the tax laws so that borrowings could be written off.

With the collapse of the credit bubble, many companies now find themselves in enormous debt that they can’t pay back and will be forced to undergo huge downsizing or even bankruptcy, meaning lots more people out of work and facing serious hardship, especially considering the legacy of huge mortgage and credit card debt from the boom years.

And we can’t expect any help from the political elites. Our political leaders, from across the spectrum, have been united in their response to the boom. They have poured billions of public money into futile attempts at re-inflating the burst bubble of the developers and bankers, while putting the squeeze on the public, through cuts in health care, pensions and education. It won’t be long before the media is blaming the ‘lazy scroungers” on the dole for the mess our leaders have made of the economy.

None of this comes as much of a surprise to us though. Busts are just the occasions when the greed, stupidity, recklessness, corruption and gross unfairness of our capitalist economic system are laid bare for all to see. A change of government or a new set of regulations will change nothing. We need a fundamental reorganisation of our economy and for that we need a fundamental change in how society is run. That is what anarchists mean by revolution.

This article is from the forthcoming print edition of Workers Solidarity 107, this is it's first online publication. You can find back issues of Workers Solidarity online at http://www.wsm.ie/ws

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie/economy
author by confusedpublication date Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In a sad agreement with the most said in the article, I'm still puzzled by this discrepancy: if it was really free market, no-one, especially not the government, would intervene (inject more poisonous money) into already (in economic terms) sick companies, right? The bad companies (non-liquid banks) would go bust and end of story (with all it's dire consequences for their workers and clients, but not the extremely "competent" bosses).

Socialising debt through rescuing packages for banks can hardly be called free market. It's much more similar to socialism, right? The only difference is who gets the benefits, is it only the political elites like in socialism/communism or both them and their buddies in big companies in statist-corporatist capitalism.

I'd be glad to be corrected...

author by Terencepublication date Wed Jan 14, 2009 00:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This question frequently arises... if the free market was truly free. Such a thing never exists nor can exist. In the Capitalism system if you start to accumulate money that automatically gives you more power than the next person who might have less than you. And why is that, because if I have a stack of money, I can get other people to do things for me simply by paying them. As we know in reality really serious amounts of money can accumulate and for those with the highest amounts they gain enormous leverage over regulators and politicians through slick lobbyists, mutual benefical relationships and institutional sponsorship and the promotion of their ideas and theories and not least outright corruption. Those who have the most will seek to shape the system so that it protects them.
So the free markets that you refer to have never actually existed and are never likely to either. It should also be quite clear that is the lack of regulation and rules and the adherence to them that accelerates the process of instability.

You also raise the question if socializing the losses but privatizing the profits is socialism. No, it isn't. A real socialist system is designed to run for the benefit of the people in a political system that reflects the will of the people in a society where they are informed of the facts and not mislead on a daily basis about practically everything.

On the contrary, this merger of corporate and private capital with state power is in essence the very core of what fascism is about. After all, it was Mussolini who said: ’Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power."

author by Terencepublication date Wed Jan 14, 2009 00:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In today's Irish Times (Tues 13th Jan), there is an article with the above title reporting on a presentation made by the UCD economist Morgan Kelly who for the past several years had been warning us about the perilous state of the Irish banks, housing bubble and economy.

In the presentation he predicted that house prices would fall by 80 per cent from peak to trough in real terms.

As reported, he painted a very gloomy picture of the state of the Irish economy giving some insight to the enormous damage caused by the fools in charge, who up to last year were treated as mythical hero capitalists. Quoting from the report it says:

Mr Kelly said Ireland’s “reputational capital” had been damaged by “chancers” such as ex-Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick, who had been abetted by “buffoons” such as former financial regulator Patrick Neary, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and the Taoiseach.

In discussing the €110 billion given in loans to developers, Mr Kelly said a typical regional housing collapse in the US saw banks sustain a 20 per cent loss on these loans, but the narrowness of the Irish market increased the risk of “substantially larger losses” for Irish banks.

“The guarantees of Anglo and [Irish] Nationwide liabilities have a strong chance of being called in over the next 21 months,” he said. Extending the Government guarantee to these two financial institutions was “extraordinarily unwise” and could produce losses that the State cannot afford to repay.

The global financial crisis may have been positive for the Irish economy as it “stopped us dragging ourselves even deeper into our hole,” he said. “If it had taken another year or two, we would have ended up in an Icelandic-shaped hole, which is not to say that we won’t end up in one.”

However returning to the points raised in the main article above by Chekov, he raises the key point is that it will be us the ordinary people who will pay dearly for these mistakes and it looks like we will be paying for a very long time. The question naturally arises as to why on Earth, we just accept this collectively. And whats worse is that all these same people are proposing that we go back to the same system again once the "recovery" happens, so that they can make a stack load of money again while we plod along with shoddy services. They of course make all the right noises about having more regulation this time, but as always all this regulation as has proved to be the case is just windowing dressing. The financial; regulator is a case in point. There was never any intention that it should have teeth and do it's job. It was merely all PR, as we all know as we had to listen to all that nonesense for every banking advert over the past few years about .... this bank is regulated by the ..

Before this gets worse and our health system is badly cut back, our bus services are severely curtailed and who knows what else, people should seriously consider forcing the govt to forget about the property developer banks -i.e. Anglo Irish and let them fail, no bailout. We need to be collectively sending the message of what the public thinks to the government and getting it implemented.

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