Tag: Ireland

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: These are a few of my least favourite things by NY Brit Expat

It’s been one of those weeks where so many things have come to light that I simply do not know where to begin writing first. I sit there and think, which of the various things that I have been listening to or reading about have actually annoyed me to the point of actually writing about. I have realised that I am just generally annoyed.

When I thought about it more, I concluded that the underlying theme of these various stories is a complete and utter contempt by bourgeois governments (that lay claim to being utterly democratic) of the vast majority of people that they govern. Whether they govern competently or not, whether there is anything resembling a democratic mandate or not; it is the utter contempt in which they hold the majority of the population that has really gotten my goat.

I also realised that this is not only confined to governments, it is a view shared by the leadership of religious authorities, by arms of the state (police, armies, etc.) and even by the heads of sporting associations.  This contempt is a reflection of the fact that those in power think/know that when push comes to shove, they know who they serve and it is not the vast majority of people; it is a tiny elite hiding behind the word “democracy” while actually not even slightly being accountable to that majority. It is the abuse of power by those that have it wielded against those that view themselves as powerless. Having just spoken to my postman about my frustration, he agreed and said “this is a long term problem, what can you and I do about it”?

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Against Their Own Best Interests

Last week the Irish voted against their own (s)elf interest, which according to Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics at the University of Athens, when they “voted in favour of the EU’s fiscal compact which specifies that which is both impossible to attain and catastrophic if it is attained“:

So, why did the Fine Gael-led Dublin government push so powerfully in favour of this piece of crippling idiocy? And why did the smart, decent Irish voters said Yes, despite their tradition of saying No to euro-silliness? The answer is simple: They were blackmailed. Ireland’s voters were told: Vote No and the flow of money from the troika will cease. And so they voted Yes, even though I suspect that no government minister, no rank and file Fine Gael or Labour Party member, no man or woman on the street believes that the Fiscal Compact they voted for makes sense. [..]

If on 17th June Greeks voted like the Irish did last week (that is, against their reasoning and guided by fear and blackmail), the Eurozone will become history, with terrible consequences for the global economy. This is not the case of the Philosopher Kings blackmailing the plebs to do what is right. This is the case of ‘madmen in authority’, to quote Keynes, who are not only steering the vessel toward the rocks but who are, in the process, punching holes in the life vests that may carry us to safety once the shipwreck is complete. [..]

To conclude, Europe’s peoples are being marched into a catastrophe. They know that this is their predicament. They can see their march is leading them off a mighty cliff. But they are too afraid to veer off, in case there are beaten back into line, in case they get lost in the woods, for reasons that sheep know best. However, the only way this hideous march can end is if someone summons up the courage and does it. And steps out, showing the others that this march can stop and must stop – for everyone’s benefit. Who is that someone? We, Europeans, do not have many options. As I wrote above, the Irish people had a chance but did not take it. In two weeks, the Greeks have their chance. Voting for Syriza would offer us (and by ‘us’ I mean all Europeans) a chance of this circuit-breaker. A chance to say: Enough! Time to change course in order to save the Eurozone, so as to prevent the Great Postmodern Depression which lurks once the euro-system fragments formally.

Varoufakis gives his reasons for supporting Sariza: first, that Sariza is the only party that understands that Greece needs to stay in the EuroZone and that the Eurozone won’t survive if it doesn’t give up austerity; second, the economic team that will negotiate on Greece’s behalf are good and persuasive with a clear understanding of the situation; and third, Syriza will not be the sole arbiter of the Greek government. It will be a coalition, so there is no need to fear the party’s extreme leftism.

I hope the Greeks’ come to their senses unlike the Irish and Wisconsins.

So, how’s that bailout thing working?

Ireland Gets $113 Billion Aid as Bondholders Win Bailout-Payment Reprieve

By James G. Neuger and Simon Kennedy, Bloomberg News

Nov 29, 2010 11:42 AM ET

“The notion that a rescue package for Ireland would create a firewall and stop the fear of contagion is clearly discredited,” said Preston Keat, director of research at Eurasia Group, a political consultancy, in London. “Portugal and Spain are already facing pressures in the markets.”

Germany, which built the euro on the principle of budgetary rigor, unleashed the latest phase of the crisis by demanding a “permanent” system as of 2013 that would enable fiscally troubled countries to restructure their debts and cut the value of bond holdings.

The German push ran into criticism from policy makers elsewhere, who called it mistimed, and from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, who warned it would unsettle bondholders. Merkel, who has faced domestic criticism for aiding EU neighbors, yesterday backed away from the pitch for an automatic penalty, agreeing to give the International Monetary Fund a role in determining losses on a case-by-case basis.

Bank bondholders escape again as a protected species of capitalism

JOHN McMANUS, The Irish Times

Monday, November 29, 2010

FOR A brief moment on Friday, it looked as though for the first time in Europe’s handling of the financial crisis the holders of senior bank bonds were going to join the rest of us in the world of moral hazard.

But it now seems that the issue of the senior bond holders in the Irish banks being asked to participate in the fourth bailout of these institutions was effectively shelved on Saturday.

The speed with which even the mere suggestion of burden sharing with Irish bank senior bond holders sent the market into paroxysms indicates that they know the day of reckoning is coming.

The authorities may have blinked first, but a process may have been set in train that will see the abandonment of the position that senior bond holders in European banks are a protected species.

Markets Remain Focused on Debt Crisis


Published: November 30, 2010

“Ireland’s bailout package has clearly failed to stop the rot in euro zone markets and if anything it has focused attention on other countries in the periphery especially Portugal but also to Spain, Belgian and Italian government debt,” an analyst at Crédit Agricole, Mitul Kotecha, said.

At the heart of the problem is that the austerity measures these countries need to take to reduce their deficits threaten to backfire by weakening economic growth and hurting state revenues. That is what’s happening in Greece, which has been able to drastically cut its spending but is struggling to raise tax income as economic and corporate activity wilts.

Just as badly as predicted.

Go Vikings!

Iceland Is No Ireland as State Free of Bank Debt, Grimsson Says

By Jonas Bergman and Omar R. Valdimarsson, Bloomberg News

Nov 26, 2010 9:21 AM ET

Iceland’s President Olafur R. Grimsson said his country is better off than Ireland thanks to the government’s decision to allow the banks to fail two years ago and because the krona could be devalued.

“The difference is that in Iceland we allowed the banks to fail,” Grimsson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Mark Barton today. “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.”

“Iceland is faring much better than anybody expected,” Grimsson said. The Icelandic state’s liability on foreign depositor claims stemming from Icesave accounts at failed Landsbanki Islands hf should be put to a national referendum, he said.

“How far can we ask ordinary people — farmers and fishermen and teachers and doctors and nurses — to shoulder the responsibility of failed private banks,” said Grimsson. “That question, which has been at the core of the Icesave issue, will now be the burning issue in many European countries.”

(h/t Atrios)

Ireland hasn’t gone away either

Though Brian Cowen and his Fianna Fail (great name dude) Party soon will.

Irish Debt Crisis Forces Collapse of Government

By LANDON THOMAS Jr., The New York Times

Published: November 22, 2010

DUBLIN – The Irish government faced imminent collapse on Monday, only a day after it signed off on a $100 billion bailout, setting the stage for a new election early next year and injecting the threat of political instability into a European financial crisis that already has markets on edge.

Confronted with high-level defections from his governing coalition, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he would dissolve the government after passage of the country’s crucial 2011 budget early in December.

His announcement capped a grim day for Ireland, as protesters tried to storm the Parliament building in Dublin, and Moody’s Investors Service, the ratings agency, lowered the rating on Irish debt by several notches.

In summary form, Fianna Fail controls the Irish Parliament by a very thin majority.  The Green Party, currently in coalition to provide that majority with 6 seats of its own has officially announced that they’ll vote No Confidence after the signature of the bailout agreement and passage of the new austerity budget.

However up to 5 Fianna Fail members have announced that they won’t wait that long and don’t plan on voting for either the bailout or the budget.

Voter sentiment in Ireland is similar to that in Iceland which was forced to repudiate many offers made by the banksters to safeguard their balance sheets and opposition party leaders are strongly calling for snap elections as a referendum on the government, its policies, the bailout agreement, and austerity.

If elections are held they’ll likely win in a landslide.  It’s not certain Fianna Fail can even continue to survive as a party.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.  You sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Of course the banksters are making threats-

EU warns Ireland over snap election

By Bruno Waterfield in Dublin, The Telegraph

10:00AM GMT 23 Nov 2010

The European Union has warned the Irish government that snap elections would be “very irresponsible” as post-bail-out turmoil continues to rock Ireland’s political establishment.

Vital to his staying on in power, were EU warnings that Ireland’s £77 billion bail-out would be jeopardised if the government fell Ireland, a situation that would spark a euro zone debt crisis and lead to the value Irish bonds being wiped out by global markets.

“From our perspective, it is important that the government is able to represent Ireland in the talks,” said another EU source. “It would be very unpleasant if there was no one to talk to. That would be very irresponsible.”

The turmoil means there are question marks over whether the government can pass a four year austerity later this week and a 2011 budget next month, both are preconditions of the EU and IMF rescue programme.

Declan Ganley, the leader of the successful 2008 Irish No campaign against the Lisbon Treaty, before the vote was overturned last year, accused the EU of destroying Ireland’s political class by pressuring it into an unpopular bail-out to preserve the euro.

“The Irish political class has been sacrificed on the altar of expediency by those they thought were their friends in Brussels, Berlin and Paris,” he said.

Yes, more like that please.  I hope you starve just like the workers you betrayed you arrogant idiots.

An Irish Haircut

The Debt Problems of the European Periphery

By Anders Åslund, Peter Boone and Simon Johnson, The Baseline Scenario

November 17, 2010 at 12:18 am

Last week’s renewed anxiety over bond market collapse in Europe’s periphery should come as no surprise.  Greece’s EU/IMF program heaps more public debt onto a nation that is already insolvent, and Ireland is now on the same track. Despite massive fiscal cuts and several years of deep recession Greece and Ireland will accumulate 150% of GNP in debt by 2014.   A new road is necessary: The burden of financial failure should be shared with the culprits and not only born by the victims.

The fundamental flaw in these programs is the morally dubious decision to bail out the bank creditors while foisting the burden of adjustment on taxpayers.  Especially the Irish government has, for no good reason, nationalized the debts of its failing private banks, passing on the burden to its increasingly poor citizens.  On the donor side, German and French taxpayers are angry at the thought of having to pay for the bonanza of Irish banks and their irresponsible creditors.

Such lopsided burden-sharing is rightly angering both donors and recipients.  Rising public resentment is testing German and French willingness to promise more taxpayer funds.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hasty and ill thought out plan to demand private sector burden sharing, but only “after mid-2013”, marks a first response to these popular demands.  We should expect more.

Financial crises are actually not rare, and the rules for their resolution are clear. The fundamental insight is that huge amounts of financial losses, of seemingly real value, need to be distributed across creditors, debtors, equity holders and taxpayers.

My emphasis.

Ireland: How much punishment for British and international banks?

Robert Peston, BBC

09:09 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Are haircuts in or out for Ireland? Will the putative experts at the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, who will spend the next few days examining Ireland’s intertwined banking and fiscal challenges, recommend that there should be losses imposed on the providers of tens of billions of euros of wholesale debt to banks.

It is that phrase “restructuring of the banking sector” which may alarm the banks and financial institutions which are wholesale creditors of Ireland’s banks, the providers of more senior debt which is supposed to be least at risk of non-repayment. The implication is that consideration is being given to forcing losses on them, such that they would share in the costs of rehabilitating Ireland’s banks.

(I)t would be a bit odd if the ECB, in the shape of all its senior movers and shakers, were opposed to such haircuts: there is a powerful moral argument, of the sort that normally appeals to central bankers, to the effect that overseas banks and institutions in the UK, Germany and so on should have known better than to encourage Ireland’s banks to lend recklessly and pump up a completely unsustainable property bubble – and that they therefore deserve a bit of a spanking.

What’s more, if Ireland is fundamentally incapable of paying off all it owes – which is equivalent to an oppressive 700% of GDP when banking, public sector and private sector debts are added together -some will say it is grotesquely unfair that the cost should fall entirely on taxpayers in Ireland, the European Union and (if IMF money is drawn) the rest of the world.

What would then be triggered would be enormous payments by underwriters of credit default swaps (CDSs), the debt insurance contracts taken out by lenders and speculators. These payments would generate enormous losses for the financial institutions, including banks, which provided the CDS cover.

Even without the CDS loss multiplier, the impact of debt haircuts would be painful for British and international banks. According to the Bank for International Settlements, total lending of non-Irish banks to Irish banks is around $170bn, of which British banks provided $42bn, German banks provided $46bn, US banks $25bn and French banks $21bn.

What’s more, if there are haircuts imposed on Irish bank debt, it’s very difficult to see how haircuts could be avoided for Greek and Portuguese bank debt too, and also for plain vanilla Irish, Portuguese and Greek government borrowings.

If you add all that together, it comes to $435bn of exposure for international banks to the banking and public sectors of the eurozone’s three weakest economies. If, say, a third of that were written off (enough to make the residual debt almost bearable) that would trigger not far off $150bn of losses for banks alone.

Ireland turns down bailout

Not much detail yet, but breaking after the bell on CNBC, Ireland has said it will only accept a bank bailout and not a government bailout.

Meetings expected to continue tomorrow.


Irish rebuff bailout call in euro zone crisis

By Jan Strupczewski and Julien Toyer, Reuters

1 hr 1 min ago

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Ireland said it was discussing stabilization measures with its European partners on Tuesday and ways to cut its heavily indebted banks’ funding costs in what a top EU official called a “survival crisis” for the euro zone.

A euro zone source said finance ministers of the 16-nation currency area meeting in Brussels would declare support for Dublin’s austerity measures and express readiness to help financially, if it asks for aid, but would not announce any practical measures.

In Dublin, Prime Minister Brian Cowen rebuffed calls to request a bailout, saying the government was fully funded until mid-2011, and insisted that only the banks may need help.

In other news, kiss goodbye any Stock Market gains in November.  As Atrios says is seems that only when the Market goes down do our “leaders” in Washington pay attention, so, more days like this please.

Again- How’s that austerity thing working out for you?

Background- Ireland is in some ways a model of the current state of the U.S. economy in miniature.  Same Real Estate bubble fueled by the same fraud, 3 big banks now all insolvent but bailed out.  Ireland eagerly embraced an austerity program early on.  How is that working out?

“Morgan Kelly is Professor of Economics at University College Dublin.”

If you thought the bank bailout was bad, wait until the mortgage defaults hit home

Morgan Kelly, The Irish Times

Monday, November 8, 2010

WHEN I wrote in The Irish Times last May showing how the bank guarantee would lead to national insolvency, I did not expect the financial collapse to be anywhere near as swift or as deep as has now occurred. During September, the Irish Republic quietly ceased to exist as an autonomous fiscal entity, and became a ward of the European Central Bank.

It is a testament to the cool and resolute handling of the crisis over the last six months by the Government and Central Bank that markets now put Irish sovereign debt in the same risk group as Ukraine and Pakistan, two notches above the junk level of Argentina, Greece and Venezuela.

With the €55 billion repaid, the possibility of resolving the bank crisis by sharing costs with the bondholders is now water under the bridge. Instead of the unpleasant showdown with the European Central Bank that a bank resolution would have entailed, everyone is a winner. Or everyone who matters, at least.

The German and French banks whose solvency is the overriding concern of the ECB get their money back. Senior Irish policymakers get to roll over and have their tummies tickled by their European overlords and be told what good sports they have been. And best of all, apart from some token departures of executives too old and rich to care less, the senior management of the banks that caused this crisis continue to enjoy their richly earned rewards. The only difficulty is that the Government’s open-ended commitment to cover the bank losses far exceeds the fiscal capacity of the Irish State.

This €70 billion bill for the banks dwarfs the €15 billion in spending cuts now agonised over, and reduces the necessary cuts in Government spending to an exercise in futility. What is the point of rearranging the spending deckchairs, when the iceberg of bank losses is going to sink us anyway?

As a taxpayer, what does a bailout bill of €70 billion mean? It means that every cent of income tax that you pay for the next two to three years will go to repay Anglo’s losses, every cent for the following two years will go on AIB, and every cent for the next year and a half on the others. In other words, the Irish State is insolvent: its liabilities far exceed any realistic means of repaying them.

Banks have been relying on two dams to block the torrent of defaults – house prices and social stigma – but both have started to crumble alarmingly.

People are going to extraordinary lengths – not paying other bills and borrowing heavily from their parents – to meet mortgage repayments, both out of fear of losing their homes and to avoid the stigma of admitting that they are broke. In a society like ours, where a person’s moral worth is judged – by themselves as much as by others – by the car they drive and the house they own, the idea of admitting that you cannot afford your mortgage is unspeakably shameful.

That will change. The perception growing among borrowers is that while they played by the rules, the banks certainly did not, cynically persuading them into mortgages that they had no hope of affording. Facing a choice between obligations to the banks and to their families – mortgage or food – growing numbers are choosing the latter.

The gathering mortgage crisis puts Ireland on the cusp of a social conflict on the scale of the Land War, but with one crucial difference. Whereas the Land War faced tenant farmers against a relative handful of mostly foreign landlords, the looming Mortgage War will pit recent house buyers against the majority of families who feel they worked hard and made sacrifices to pay off their mortgages, or else decided not to buy during the bubble, and who think those with mortgages should be made to pay them off. Any relief to struggling mortgage-holders will come not out of bank profits – there is no longer any such thing – but from the pockets of other taxpayers.

By next year Ireland will have run out of cash, and the terms of a formal bailout will have to be agreed. Our bill will be totted up and presented to us, along with terms for repayment. On these terms hangs our future as a nation. We can only hope that, in return for being such good sports about the whole bondholder business and repaying European banks whose idea of a sound investment was lending billions to Gleeson, Fitzpatrick and Fingleton, the Government can negotiate a low rate of interest.

Ireland faced a painful choice between imposing a resolution on banks that were too big to save or becoming insolvent, and, for whatever reason, chose the latter. Sovereign nations get to make policy choices, and we are no longer a sovereign nation in any meaningful sense of that term.

(h/t dday, Kevin Drum, and Tyler Cowen)

How’s that austerity thing working out for you? by ek hornbeck, 11/8/10