31 October 2008

Shock and Awe - Part 2: An Taoiseach

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has made a rather strange statement yesterday. He said that "we are battling the most severe global economic and financial conditions for 100 years".

How does he know that? Did he commission a study into this matter? Perhaps like the one he commissioned into the reasons for the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by Ireland's voters?

I think not. And no-one else has heard of it either. So how can Brian Cowen have such amazing insight and defining knowledge about economic history? He is no historian, and no economist. Just a humble country solicitor from Offaly with very little practical experience, as he entered professional party politics aged 24 and has not done any normal work since.

So, I ask again: How can the Taoiseach make such a fundamental statement - one for which usually a hundred historians and economists would have to meet over several conferences to agree on research and findings - just by himself and almost off the cuff?

The answer is actually quite simple: Because he is making things up as he goes along.
He does not have a clue about economic history, or economics in general, but he has the bucolic shrewdness often found in people with a rural background. It is the kind of skill one needs when dealing in cattle or horses, or when trying to buy seeds at a bargain price. (There are quite a few of our TDs - across the party lines - who have this trait. After all, Ireland is still predominantly a rural country, and even most of our city dwellers are only one generation removed from farming the land.)

This shrewdness tells Brian Cowen that the Irish people have been successfully hoodwinked into voting for Fianna Fáil for many years, and especially in the last three general elections. So he thinks that he can carry on with more of the same now, except that this time it is not the prep talk of the "great Irish success" and the "we never had it so good".
This time it is pure scaremongering in order to frighten the living daylight out of us. (Maybe someone has told him that it is Halloween...)

And what is all this patronising lesson in homespun economic history in aid of? Only one thing: to promote a very bad Budget and tell us "that government cutbacks cannot be avoided".

This is the second stage of the 'Shock and Awe' concept, originally invented by the Pentagon for the US invasion of Iraq, but now applied by the Irish government to force a half-baked and counter-productive Budget on the nation. (for a detailed analysis - item by item - see my entry 'Shock and Awe - The 2009 Budget' of October 14th)

Cowen lectures us that "we have to change the economic paradigm and policies, but this cannot be done if people oppose every cut that is proposed".

Interesting. Unless he mutated over night into his evil alter ego, I presume this is the same Brian Cowen who told us only a few months ago that all was fine with Ireland. The same Brian Cowen who boasted about the strength of the Irish economy and our "secure finances" before last year's general election. And perhaps even the same Brian Cowen who is now a Fianna Fáil TD for two dozen years, a member of the Cabinet for 16 and Taoiseach for nearly six months.
The very same Brian Cowen who was - as Minister for Finance - responsible for the last four Budgets, and thus responsible for imprudent overspending and generous tax breaks for property developers. This financial policy of Fianna Fáil, supported by the PDs, created the crisis we find ourselves in now.

The very man who created the virus and helped spreading the disease is now presenting himself as the wise and concerned doctor, while he tries to sell us useless medicine at inflated prices.

No, Mr. Cowen, this will not wash! Your deliberate scaremongering does not impress Irish people who have retained their brain over eleven years of Fianna Fáil rule. You have brought this crisis not only on yourself, but on all of us. It did not just appear out of the blue and fall onto this island like an asteroid from outer space.

True, there is a global crisis. No-one denies that. And it certainly has some affect on Ireland and our economy, as these days much business is interlinked across the globe.
But the crisis we are in now is 90% made in Ireland. The way Fianna Fáil - which controls the Department of Finance since 1997 - has wasted and squandered billions while the money was aplenty, was a major factor in the creation of the current situation. Analysts have warned for years that things are going wrong, that concentration on the construction industry and hyped-up property prices are a recipe for disaster.
No-one listened, and least of all the then Minister for Finance: Brian Cowen.

We might well be living through the most serious financial - but not economic - crisis the world has seen since 1929. But that - in my Maths book - makes 80 years and not 100. And, as I have stated here and in many other articles, Ireland needs not to be affected by that in a big way.

Had we had a prudent Minister for Finance and a competent government, we would now have a nice nest egg in form of a sovereign wealth fund, created by the State and accumulated over the years of plenty. Norway has one, and so has Singapore (to mention only two other countries with a population similar to Ireland).
Many countries - large and small - have established sovereign wealth funds when they took in more money than they needed at the time. This is a sensible and prudent way of government.

Only Ireland - under Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Finance Minister Brian Cowen - decided that the unexpected extra money could only be spent and spent, as the Irish are supposed to be feckless and don't save money.
And not enough with that, the Irish people were heavily encouraged by their banks and by the government to borrow, and borrow more. This went on until a few months ago, and in some ways it is still going on now.

So if Brian Cowen is looking for a reason we are running out of money, a look into a mirror would give him the desired answer.
If he had any guts, he would call an early general election and give the people a chance to decide their future destination. But Cowen is a bully, and - like all bullies - a coward. He will try to hang on to the sinking ship until the water is reaching his ears. In the process he will take many of us down with him.
And - in all fairness - many deserve nothing else, as they kept voting for Fianna Fáil even when their lies and incompetence were clear and obvious, for everyone to see.

The government we have is only there because we elected it. So some "mea culpa (1997), mea culpa (2002), mea maxima culpa (2007)..." is well in order for those who voted for Fianna Fáil and for the Green Party.

But a Brian Cowen lecture on the world's economic history is not. There are plenty of ways to get out of the crisis with dignity and a maximum of fairness. It is time for the government to abandon bullying and scaremongering and turn to these decent methods. (And if they feel not able to do so on their own, they can drop me a line. I would be happy to offer my services as a political consultant and can be contacted by e-mail...)

The Emerald Islander


Anonymous said...

The "Oh, we cannot sustain any financial stability without voting Yes on Lisbon2" scare tactics.

Ho-hum Vote no till the cows come home!


Yes, you are quite right. And I believe they have a lot of cows in Co. Offaly... :)

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to describe Brian Cowen as bucolic and shrewd but quite another to infer that rural people to include farmers are a lesser people than city dwellers. Not to mention that shrewdness should be used on cattle and horses. Why i have known horses that have been kinder and more forgiving than man. Also why is it necessary to use shrewdness with animals? Do they not respond to affection, nurturing, and understanding. Go ahead look a baby calf in the eyes and think about being shrewd. On behalf of animals and people in rural areas i say we are special and deserve respect regardless of Brian Cowen's lack of knowledge.

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