Politicians putting all our hard work at risk by their rash promises to voters

By Eamon Delaney.

Hardly has the party season ended, but our politicians are back with their rash and populist promises in the run-in to next year’s election.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has promised to raise the State pension to up to €24 per week over next few years if re-elected. There is no clarification as to how this will be paid for. It is unnecessary, uncalled for and recklessly generous – pitched to attract the votes of the elderly.joan-burton-labour-leadership-bid-lab-752x501 As it is, the State will struggle to pay for the existing pension system, given the huge demands expected in the future.

But who cares about that – that’s the future! Instead, Ms Burton’s stunt is an all-out pitch for votes when the Labour Party is in the doldrums and possibly about to be kicked out – and for which someone else will pay the bill down the road. This is, alas, the usual pattern of Irish pro-cyclical politics, boom to bust, and ‘spend the taxpayers’ cash now, if you have it.’

Labour’s proposal is also not a targeted increase. It is once again an increased benefit for all, regardless of means. We are apparently wedded to ‘universality’ in Ireland, such as with children’s allowances and, now, health services, and to the idea that State benefits should go to the wealthy too, rather than specifically to the needy. No wonder the Labour Party is seen as such a middle class party. After all, their free third-level education benefited no one more than their own well-heeled supporters.

But Fianna Fáil is no different. Indeed, far from criticising Ms Burton’s proposed €24 hike, Michael McGrath of FFmichael-mcgrath-3-390x285 said it didn’t go far enough and wouldn’t ‘cover the cost’ of cuts already imposed. It’s the same old Fianna Fáil, alas, when it comes to public spending and currying favour with the electorate, regardless of the cost to the State – and our future. This week the party rolled out its new plan for an enhanced welfare system which will bring up everybody’s basic benefits in a way that, in many cases, will make it pointless for them to start working.

Everybody, from rich to poor, is promised a minimum welfare/income by FF in excess of the current basic welfare rate of €188 per week. This basic ‘minimum income’ is being described as a ‘protection against poverty’ in a future era where few will be guaranteed work.

Granted, any income earned above this minimum payment will be taxed at a single new rate – probably at about 25pc. However, is it really the State’s business to ensure people have decent incomes and even actually pay them a monetary top-up if they don’t make enough in employment? Surely the purpose of the State is to create the conditions for employment, enterprise and, hopefully, prosperity.

However, having created the conditions that has made working attractive again – and only because the EU Troika was at their back – the Government, and FF (which began the Troika reforms) now wants to do the very opposite. Labour wants to increase dole payments by a whopping €30 per week, even though Ireland’s extensive and often generous welfare system has long been seen as a deterrent to work (welfare traps etc). And Fine Gael, which seems to have lost all its financial discipline and now resembles the Bertie-era giveaways of the mid-2000s, wants to make a similar expensive, anti-work measure.

According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistics agency project, Ireland has the highest expenditure rate on unemployment in the EU. We spend twice the European average on unemployment costs. But hey, let’s spend more when there’s an election coming, seems to be the politicians attitude.

It seems the Government, and all the main political parties, are all about courting popularity, and it doesn’t matter what it costs. Just look at the recent Budget, with its immediate pay restoration for public servants, and increase in Child Benefit and other allowances, and a top-up in the Christmas bonus. It was just one goodie after another as the Government’s fiscal discipline slackened in sight of a Spring election. The minimum wage was also hiked, despite protests from small businesses and entrepreneurs, who are actually creating jobs but who are ignored by most of our political culture.

This is all very depressing but it’s also surprising. Having taken flak for making all those cuts and necessary reforms, why would the Government now endanger such hard-won gains to curry favour with a seemingly content electorate, especially since most of these concessions will be long forgotten by the time of the election? Why not try to be respected rather than liked, and do what the UK Government did, running on a programme of clear and frank austerity and still getting itself resoundingly re-elected?

Instead, the FG and Labour Government is putting the interests of their parties ahead of those of the country at a time when we are still borrowing heavily and running a big budget deficit. And FF would do exactly the same.

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Eamon Delaney is a writer and broadcaster based in North Dublin.

In none of these parties, is there anyone saying that we cannot afford this extra spending and it shouldn’t be done. That is the really depressing part. It is exactly the sort of election policies which got us into trouble so many times before, in the late 1970s, the 1980s and then most notoriously in the later years of the Celtic Tiger.

This article was originally published in “The Irish Independent.”

Et tu Brute!

“It was said, for instance that Trump, a thrice married New Yorker with wobbly views on abortion and gay rights, could not win over evangelicals in southern states. Yet he is now polling above Cruz, the son of a church pastor, across the south.”

Freddy Grey, writing in the Spectator.

Why does “Leviathan” violate its alleged realism?

leviathan

“Leviathan” a film by Andrey Zvyaginstev

By Lawrence A. Uzzell
“Leviathan” is the most important recent film from Russia…

….Ponder a car mechanic owning a SUV, a repair garage and a house several times bigger than the average Russian’s home. The film depicts Nikolai as fixing his friends’ cars for free. How he had become a successful businessman in his poverty-stricken village? What had been the source for his income?
Perhaps Nikolai has his own methods of corruption, not explicitly stated in the film. I could easily believe that in many countries, including America. But if so, why his wife Lilia has a such stinking (literally) job in the local fish factory? Lilia’s fellow worker and girlfriend Angela with her traffic-cop husband Pasha are entirely credible. Nikolai and Lilia are not.
I really wanted to like this film. Corrupt politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and corrupt bishops are hugely important facts of life in current Russia. There is no need to exaggerate. Unfortunately “Leviathan” commits several howlers. (If you dislike plot spoilers, stop reading at this point.)
The real chances of the Russian Orthodox Church’s seizing an individual family’s house are probably zero. If such an scenario were actually to happen, you can be sure that the many critics of the church would rightly and loudly denounce it in Russia. It has not happened. The closest events in genuine Russian history have been seizures of Roman Catholic and Protestant church buildings now in the hands of the Russian Church. Those land-grabs were committed by the Soviet state decades ago; only later the Orthodox bishops became the indirect beneficiaries. The bishops in those cases should be seen not as thieves but as fences — far from saints but also far from this film’s depiction. In the current mood of opinion neither Moscow nor Hollywood wants to highlight western Christian churches as victims.
(To be absolutely precise, there has been at least one post-Soviet case when an Orthodox monastery evicted lay residents from their homes. Those buildings were on land originally belonged to that monastery before 1917; the church was demanding to recover its own property — quite different from fictional Nikolai’s ancestral house.)
Important for this film is another piece of Russian history, the 1990s reconstruction of Moscow’s huge Cathedral of Christ the Saviour ( pictured right )1287-cathedral-christ-saviour-moscow not in any alleged parallels but rather in key dissimilarities. The Orthodox sought not to steal somebody else’s property but to recover their own pre-1917 churches demolished by the Soviet regime. The hyper-rush, hyper-expensive cathedral project was actually the Moscow mayor’s brainchild, not the bishops’ in the 1990s. The Russian Church’s top leadership behaved in its typical servility to the Soviet and post-Soviet secular state — far from being the dominant partner. “Leviathan” reverses reality — depicting the local mayor as the junior partner and the local bishop as the top boss. In the characters’ words and body language the film should have given the alpha-male role to the mayor, not to the bishop.
I love the film’s symbols, both verbal and visual, of a ruthless leviathan partly inspired by the British philosopher Hobbes. Unfortunately the screenplay depicts a Russian priest mangling the Old Testament. Nikolai the car mechanic is indeed a Job figure, but an authentic Orthodox priest would never describe Job’s wife as trying to knock sense into her suffering husband. In the Bible she, not he, was ready to provoke God’s wrath.
Thus this film is seriously flawed.

TSARIf you want an honest Russian film about church-state relations, try “Tsar” (2009) — available via YouTube with English subtitles. Sadly, both Moscow and Hollywood provide too few fair-minded movies featuring religion.

Mr. Uzzell is a semi retired anti- Jacobin activist who lives near Staunton Virginia.

The Force Awakens.

Before I went to Venice my mother said to me- “Richard, you won’t see anything ugly for a week! ”  Visitors to the Tower Park shopping centre outside Poole can be equally venice-discovery-1confident that for the duration of their visit that they will not see anything beautiful, unless it be on the screen of the cinema. Visits to the cinema there at Christmas time have recently become something of  Miller family tradition. This year- or rather in fact now last year- there were four of us in the car as we drove Southwards over the chalk hills called “downs” which separate South Wiltshire and the coast. In winter the countryside is one of long vistas, surmounted by grey cloud, and it was shrewd of Sir Henry Channon- aka Chips- to describe the views concerned as “mournful” when or wrote in his diary of his visit to the photographer Cecil Beaton in a country house called Ashcombe  ( more recently occupied by Madonna ) near which our route to Poole took us.

When we emerged from the cinema into the truly amazing environment that is Tower Park we were divided about “The Force Awakens.” The young teenager, who had already seen the film in Paris, where he lives, was thrilled by it. For him it was obviously a great night out. His father who drove us, was eager not to throw cold water on his son’s enjoyment, but was obviously himself ambivalent about the movie.

My brother and I stretched out in the back of the luxurious BMW were more critical. He was on the war path. It was he said the worst film he had ever seen. It was he said “despicable” effort which deserved no praise of any kind. My objections were moderate. I had greatly enjoyed the first two films of the series- and so was keen to see this continuation. But while the fact that this film was a continuation explained why I had joined the party with such enthusiasm, it was also the greatest challenge that the film faced, and failed to meet.

The difficulty is that if a continuation does not include references to, and visual quotations from that which preceded  it, then it can hardly be said to be a continuation, and becomes just an attempt to exploit the “brand.” If one the other hand it does contain such references then it is difficult to make them interesting, and all but impossible to make them fresh.

Take the excellent bar scene in one of the earlier films in the series. It was an absolute triumph.  I remember cool camera angles- and above all I remember my delight at the aliens talking in subtitles, and the whole scene made even better by the fact that it parodied similar scenes in westerns. I knew, of course, that the makers of “The Force Awakens” would not be able to resist paying tribute to the earlier triumph. But even I was unprepared for how completely their effort would fall flat. It was a disaster. But would it, perhaps, have worked if I had not seen the original?  Perhaps, after all it did seem to work for our young friend who accompanied us.

For me though the film was less “despicable” than it was “mournful.” It was indeed a bit like winter landscape filled with the memories of the preceding summer but not yet with the promise of spring.

tower-park-poole

Tower Park, Poole.

On the other hand it wasn’t that bad. There were some exciting moments, and the special effects were sometimes captivating. My advice would be to avoid the film, but to buy the DVD ( if they are still available) and wait for a wet afternoon- you won’t see anything very ugly for a couple of hours!