Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Erin go broke

I have often heard lumpen sorts shouting “Erin go bragh” after consuming a dozen or more pints (not that there’s anything wrong with that. The pints, I mean) and wondered what it meant. I decided such occasions were probably not the most appropriate times to enquire, and remained in ignorance until quite recently, when I found out it means something along the lines of “Ireland forever!”.

US economist Paul Krugman put a new interpretation on it in a column in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Erin go broke”, in which he pondered that the worst thing that could happen in the States is that they “could turn Irish”.

But before our Little Irelanders start puffing out their pimply chests with pride, he did not mean it in a complimentary fashion. Indeed, he meant that Ireland is one of the world’s economic basket cases, and is an example to be avoided.

“The Irish government now predicts that this year G.D.P. will fall more than 10 percent from its peak, crossing the line that is sometimes used to distinguish between a recession and a depression”, he said, citing Ireland's enthusiasm to embrace the "brave new world of unsupervised financial markets" as did Iceland.

"One part of the Irish economy that became especially free was the banking sector, which used its freedom to finance a monstrous housing bubble. Ireland became in effect a cool, snake-free version of coastal Florida. Then the bubble burst", the nobel laureate continued, "the collapse of construction sent the economy into a tailspin, while plunging home prices left many people owing more than their houses were worth. The result, as in the United States, has been a rising tide of defaults and heavy losses for the banks. And the troubles of the banks are largely responsible for putting the Irish government in a policy straitjacket.

"And the lesson of Ireland is that you really, really don’t want to put yourself in a position where you have to punish your economy in order to save your banks."

Mary Coughlan, on a mission in the US to dissuade the Obama administration from altering domestic corporate laws which currently allow US multinationals to avoid tax in countries such as Ireland, was unimpressed, describing such comments as "unhelpful".

"Unhelpful" they may be, from her perspective. But that does not mean they are untrue.

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Bernd said...

Sorry, but these comments are indeed unhelpful, as they contain one glaring mistake!

Witness: "Ireland became in effect a cool, snake-free version of coastal Florida."

Even nobel laureates should be able to distinguish between "cool" and "cold".

The Gombeen Man said...

That's what I was thinking too, Bernd. It's all too easy to misinterpret the word "cool".

Denis said...

Long term reader first time poster GM, but i thought you might be interested in my brief flirtation with living in this country. I arrived last august to take up a reasonably well paid (for me) job from the UK. I grew up in the north but from 18 yrs to 37 lived in GB and elsewhere. And I live in Strandhill, Sligo - seen worse. But the domestic chief of staff and I have decided, after 9 months that we're going to live in the north instead. The final kick in the teeth was the budget and everyone having to stick to it except, errr TDs who still get to keep their pay rises. The VRT tried to do my wife for 5000 euros just for driving her second hand car across the border (they argued that we only owned it for 5 and a half months and had to pay the money). It says on the vrt website that the onus is on me to prove when I imported the vehicle - so that'll be guilty until proven innocent again. By moving north I can rent a bigger house and be better off by 600 euro a month BEFORE I buy any groceries. Example - phone and broadband here - 50 euro. Phone and broadband in north - 13 euro. School books free. Health free. Dogshit free. It's this last one which really gets my goat. I live in a beautiful part of the world which is littered with dogshit! I counted 20 in the first mile of a run recently before I gave up. Why can't people pick it up like in any civilised country (not france of course). So I'd love to hang around for the next election to vote the bastards out (to be replaced with what???) but I'm voting with my feet. Thank god I never bought a house! Sadly I still have to pay 40 cents in tax on every single euro I earn when it's all evened out. Please keep up the good work and give me a shout when the revolution starts.

The Gombeen Man said...

Well Denis, I wish you all the very best up north - and fair play to you for having a get-out plan. You are screwed every which way here, and your VRT experience illustrates that nicely. It's scandalous, and it's so accepted here. Nation of rebels, eh?

If there is ever a revolution (and I doubt it, because the place is full of arseholes), I sincerely hope it's an improvement on the last one they had.

Good luck to you and the Domestic Chief of Staff! Keep visiting Gombeen Nation though, if only out of sympathy for our suffering!

Anonymous said...

"Erin go broke indeed" arsa Eamon Devalue-Eire from his cool basement apartment amongst the Glasnevin patiotic elite.

Ponyboy in Tasmania.

PS - that offer of a pint still holds if you ever come down this way - you really do deserve it.

Anonymous said...

HI THERE MISTER GM i tell ya iam outraged at this krugman dude,his ny times article erin gone broke nonsense, last summer when erin was the 2nd richest country in the whole wide wurld he didnt write about that did he, this iz racism pure and simple anti irish the only kind i cant stand,i suspect kruggie iz english you cant trust begrudgers raised on sausages and wake tay , another dude not to be trusted iz bogman obama he wants to end a nice little tax fiddle us multinationals had going in oirland running global sales through their irish office bumping up the irish gdp to boot ,iwill never again trust another offaly man with or without a tan, must be off now for a few TULLAMORE DEWS and watch out for stars prancing around beverly hills

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks Ponyboy in Tasmania... I might be joining you over there permanently, if this place keeps going the way it's going.

Or I might even see yourself Mr Beverley Hills for a few Tullamore Dews.

Kind of telling that people most supportive of the blog are those that have had the sense to get out, or are thinking of it!

Anonymous said...

Emigration!!!!! Don't you dare go near the Aussie embassy - people like myself and Beverley Hills need Secret Agent GM's reports from the old country to keep us warm in our distant nests knowing that we've made at least one decent decision in our lives. Buying the Commando was definitely on the other side of the scales along with not jabbing Haughey with my curare-tipped umbrella when i was within a metre of him once in Dublin. Maintain the rage agus beir bua freisin.
Ponyboy (don't ask) Tasmania

The Gombeen Man said...

"along with not jabbing Haughey with my curare-tipped umbrella when i was within a metre of him once in Dublin" That's got to count as a missed opportunity, alright!

Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere just yet!

Ella said...

The Sunday ritual in our house is breakfast with the newspapers, this ritual is drawn out as long as possible, particularly if Mr. Ella is rostered to work, which he was today, so I had plenty of time to digest the intake and I'm not talking about my breakfast here. Jesus am I mad.

In a recent survey by CNBC, Ireland ranked in the top 15 of ‘debtor countries’, with external debts of €1.78 trillion. That equates to EUR 425,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in our green and pleasant land - 811 per cent of our GDP. (This is not a typo)

Figures from official Ireland, the Central Statistics Office suggest, however, that our gross external debt is a mere €1.66 trillion, or only 751 per cent of our GDP. That’s all right then. Either way that's a whole lot of money we owe.

So where did all our hard earned dosh go? Here are but a few examples:

The €53,000 golden handshake to be given to the 5 junior ministers to compensate them for having to survive on a backbencher’s salary of a paltry €100,000. There are the ‘long service pension payments’ being desperately clung onto by the majority of the 66 TDs with more than 7 years in the job.

100,000 sick days taken by HSE staff in January -an absentee rate of 6.82 per cent, which is twice that of the private sector.

The 17,000 jobs which went in March alone - each one costing the exchequer around €20,000 - and the 100,000 more jobs (and €800 million in tax revenue) likely to go by the end of the year.

Then, of course, there’s the €80 billion to €90 billion it’s going to cost to take the toxic debts off the hands of the banks which, as a handful of the country’s most eminent economists, and Krugman, have all pointed out, will probably end up having to be nationalised anyway.

The 51 million paid for the e-voting machines + the millions paid for storage of said machines which are now to be scrapped at cost of f..k knows what.

This is your money and my money. I'm pissed and angry when I think about this. Erin go broke describes the situation aptly.

As I start on my usual rant, Mr. Ella promptly extricates himself from the kitchen table and mutters about having to prop up the economy.

Erin go bragh, indeed.