Click on the pic.
UPDATE: Clarification for people who don’t quite get it. These items have nothing to do with Bock the Robber. I didn’t make them and I’m not selling them. I’m only telling you about them in case you’d like to have one.
I have also had a couple of messages pointing out that Conor might not agree with the use of his images on T-shirts or mugs, and therefore I have removed this link, pending clarification.
All Bock posts here: Cowen Nude
As you probably know, our gobshite police force questioned an artist in recent days for putting a painting in a gallery without permission.
These policemen, not renowned for their subtlety, levels of literacy or cultural sophistication were sent out to intimidate a painter who made a joke about the leader of government, as if they were qualified to do anything but direct traffic.
The man lampooned is not the head of state. He’s a politician, who leads the party that presided over the collapse of our economy due to its close relationship with a bunch of criminals in the banking industry and construction.
The puppet police didn’t prosecute the builders who bankrupted our country by constructing thousands of over-priced houses, but they want to jail an artist for driving a single nail.
Dear God! What a bunch of fools.
What a pathetic country we have.
All Bock posts here: Cowen Nude
What’s the difference between the government wage-packet and one from a private employer?
Well, one big difference is this: the government immediately gets to take back half the wages it pays out, in tax and social insurance. It then takes another 20% of every euro spent out of the remainder, and every time a euro of that money is further circulated, the government takes another bite. In the end it all goes back into the pot.
On the other hand, when a private employer pays wages, the money is gone. He has to make more profits to pay the workers next week.
Therefore, the effect of public sector pay is exaggerated in two directions. On the one hand, it doesn’t cost the government anything like what it would cost a private company to employ someone, because the government immediately takes back most of the money and grabs the rest as it filters through the economy. This is not something a private employer can do.
So the real public wage bill is less than half of what it appears to be, which you would imagine is a good thing, but there’s a downside. When you cut the public wage bill, the savings are far less than you think.
Anyway, it’s all a bottle of smoke. The recent pension levy on the salaries of public servants will have almost no effect on the public finances, because it’s such a tiny element of the problem. It won’t save the €2 billion so much beloved of Biffo. It might save about half of that, if the affected workers don’t stop spending what they have left, depriving the economy of VAT and downstream income tax.
Did you know that the national debt is about 3% of the total debt incurred by this country through private and commercial borrowing? Government debt is about €50bn, but the total borrowings of this country are somewhere around €1500bn.
That’s right. You read it correctly.
One thousand five hundred billion euros.
That’s what this country owes.
€400,000 for every man., woman and child. If there are five people in your household, that’s €2 million of debt they can pin on you.
Now you have to ask yourself something: did you incur this debt? Did you remortgage your house to buy an apartment in Bulgaria? Did you buy into the delusion that the price of a house is the same thing as its value? Did you borrow €600 million to build a gigantic apartment complex in Dublin 4, or a skyscraper in Chicago?
I know someone who bought a house in Dublin. An ex-council, semi-detached house in a fairly basic area, and for that he paid nearly half a million euros. To be more precise, I should say he borrowed half a million euros. Some bank decided that his newly-acquired ex-council house was worth as much as a beachfront property in California with its own swimming pool, or a chateau in the South of France. So here we had a situation where we convinced ourselves that we weren’t living in ratty old former council houses with some knacker riding a piebald up and down the footpath outside our door, but instead we were living an Elysian dream. Half the country thought they were living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and kept the curtains closed in case they spotted the knacker on the piebald and the dream dissolved.
And in that delusion, the bankers collaborated. As did the property programmes on television, and the empty-headed wafflers who presented them, and the celebrity architects, and the estate agents, and the builders and the government.
Now, I’m about to do something you haven’t seen before. I’m going to let the government off the hook, but only a little. You see, I’ve been saying here for three years, since I started, that the whole thing was a crock of shit, and I’ve been pointing the finger at Fianna Fáil. This is true. The politicians rode the gravy train, along with the bankers and the builders. Every one of them had their snouts in the trough, and every one of them spun us the same line of pseudo-technical nonsense to bamboozle us.
I thought they were cynical, and I was right. The politicians, the bankers and the builders were as cynical as it gets.
I thought the politicians, bankers and builders were greedy and in that I was also right.
But I never for a minute grasped just how fucking stupid the politicians, bankers and builders were.
It’s only now beginning to dawn on me that none of them a had a clue what they were doing, and the government still doesn’t. After all, we’ve had a succession of finance ministers with absolutely no knowledge whatever of finance.
We had Ahern, who was nothing more than a political corner-boy with no training, education or expertise, a self-serving, two-faced little toad who could barely write his own name. He was followed by Charlie McCreevy, a glorified bookie and political chancer, who believed in spending every penny he got. He was followed by Cowen, the current Taoiseach, a man of better intellect, but with a legal background, and he in turn was replaced by another lawyer, Brian Lenihan.
What’s missing from that list, apart from integrity?
That’s right: what’s missing is any knowledge whatever of anything practical.
These were the inflated, self-aggrandising fools who preened themselves and felt gratified when a billionaire patted them on the head. Good lads.
Peasants. Plebs. Out of their depth and holding on like grim death to the wads of cash.
I’m also letting the bankers off the hook, but only a little, because I think they may have believed their own bullshit. How often in recent years have you heard an insurance policy, or a bank account described as a Product? Not a service. Not a deal. Not an arrangement, but a Product.
This is self-delusion by bankers, aware of how insubstantial the thing is that they do, and so desperate to make it feel like a real activity that they adopted the language of hard industry.
Did you hear that fool John Hurley who runs the Central Bank last year assuring us that everything was all right? Do you remember him telling us that he’d stress-tested the banks? More spurious theft of language from real, hard industry.
Will I tell Mr Hurley what a stress test is? A stress test is where you take a piece of steel or concrete or laminated polycarbonate, and you twist it and stretch it and squash it and stamp on it and set fire to it until it fucking breaks! And then you know how strong it is.
Hurley didn’t stress test the banks. What he did was turn to his golfing partners some Saturday afternoon, and say, Eh, look, Fingers, Seánie, could I have a quick word?
And they said, Sure, Johnny. What’s up?
Well, lads, I was just wondering if you were up to anything dodgy. Everything ok?
No bother Johnny-boy. Everythings’s laughin’
Oh all right. That’s fine then.
Stress-test me bollix!
I’m even going to let the builders off the hook. Not because I think they were less than greedy. Not because I think they aren’t ignorant, illiterate gobshites. Not because I think they’re honest.
No. Just because they’re a crowd of pigs in the trough, and what would you expect from a pig but a grunt?
Previously on Bock:
Today, following the failure of the Social Partners to agree details of pay cuts, the government announced a pensions levy on the salaries of all public service employees. This will work out on average at about an extra 7.5% deduction, though higher-paid workers will pay higher percentages.
Now, ninety per cent of a large number is still a large number, and a top civil servant, who was formerly earning 250 thousand, will no doubt be able to struggle by somehow on the remaining 225 thousand. But I’m not that interested in highly-paid people who can look after themselves. You see, at the other end of the scale, a reduction in a small number produces an even smaller number and I’m wondering this: what about the street-sweepers? Or the road labourers? Or the junior clerk who checks your books out of the library? These are the members of the working poor, and they are not the ones who brought about the current financial crisis in Ireland.
These are not the people who stupidly remortgaged their homes to buy apartments in Bulgaria. These are not the people who took out mortgages greater than the value of their house so that they could buy fancy cars. These are not the ones who squirreled away €120 million in secret loans, discrediting and destabilising the banking system in the process. These are far from Masters of the Universe.
While a top health service administrator might have to economise, the cuts in his salary are only biting into fat, but cuts at the bottom end of the scale are eating into bone. It costs the same to heat a poor man’s house as it does to heat a rich man’s and there are many families in this country without any room at all to economise because they simply don’t have luxuries to give up.
Higher on the salary scale a little bit, you’ve seen me writing here about nurses’ pay in the past. I think these people have been disgracefully treated, patronised, bullied and intimidated into covering for the shortcomings of a failed, misconceived health structure. They’ve been exposed to moral blackmail in order to prop up a disastrously inefficient administrative tangle. And now these people will be demonised and blamed for the financial mismanagement of this country, which was created by this appalling government and its cronies in the banks and the construction industry. I could make similar points in defence of firefighters, paramedics or even our police, much though I’ve criticised them in the past.
I won’t call what happened in Ireland an unholy alliance. I’ll call it what it was: a criminal conspiracy to bleed this country dry. It worked, and now we need scapegoats, but we won’t be blaming the red-nosed, drooling builders in the Fianna Fáil money-tent at the Galway races. Nor will we be blaming these same politicians who presided year by year over unprecedented exchequer returns, and who refused to acknowledge the reality of the bubble these returns were based on, in case it hurt their builder buddies and interrupted the kickbacks. Nor will we be blaming the bankers who shovelled out 110% loans to fools and collected their fat bonuses in return. No indeed. We won’t be blaming those who run our banks and who should right now be in jail but who, instead, are being given the pensions of the street sweepers and the nurses to bail them out.
We need scapegoats, so let’s blame people like firemen, police, paramedics, nurses, junior doctors, library assistants, street cleaners, home helps and all the other high rollers.
And while we’re at it, let’s blame the workers in places like Waterford Crystal, and Dell, and Banta for getting a living wage. Let’s accuse them of greed.
But let’s say nothing about our Prime Minister who pays himself more than the President of the USA, or the hospital consultants who keep our health service in a money-making stranglehold, aided and abetted by their ideological allies, the PDs. Nor should we say anything about these Tribunal lawyers who demanded and got €2000 per day and who were given the right to decide how long the tribunals would go on, and how much waffling they chose to do, at â€2000 per day. Let’s not talk about that.
And let’s not blame a government that spent €50 million on an unworkable electronic voting system, or €200 million on an IT system for the health service that didn’t work. Small money, as Minister Noel Dempsey might have remarked.
And let’s not ask energy multinationals to pay anything for our natural gas reserves, but instead let’s deploy 200 policemen to beat protesters out of the road.
And let’s not ask why this government gave away our national telecommunications network for half nothing to an asset stripper, leaving us helpless to introduce effective broadband at a time when we vitally need it.
And let’s not ask clerical sex abusers to pick up the billion-euro tab for compensating their victims, or make them sell their lands or their gold or their art treasures. No indeed. Instead let the taxpayer come up with the money.
This country is full of self-serving cabals, secret societies and vested interests who have held it by the throat since its birth. For a while, many ordinary workers naively bought into a dream, actively promoted by this government, that they might somehow share in the riches controlled by these small groups, these few elite families, these anointed. And the fools went and mortgaged their houses, bought their Spanish villas and convinced themselves they were high rollers too, until reality came crashing down on them as it had to in the end when the upside-down pyramid toppled over.
And now, they’re losing their jobs. They’re losing their houses. They’re losing their minds.
But let’s not blame the millionaires, or the billionaires, the bankers, the lawyers or the political apes who decided the direction of our economy and who poured away ten years of unimaginable prosperity, cynically purchasing one election after another.
No. Let’s not look in that direction. Instead, let’s pin the blame on the nurses and the teachers and the firemen. Let’s stick it to the factory workers and the shop assistants
The government has gone into an agonising series of negotiations with the unions and representatives of business, frantically trying to cut back 2 billion euros from public expenditure this year.
It’s a desperate situation, and all bets are off. All contracts are out the window. Everyone has to give something back. Everyone has to take some pain, we’re told.
Everyone, that is, except the bankers whose criminal greed got us into this mess. They’ll be all right because the government will reach into your pension fund and give them your money to bail them out. And then the government will increase your taxes to give the bankers some more money. And then they’ll cut the services you get — services that were already inadequate compared to most European countries.
I have a couple of suggestions that might save them a lot of trouble.
You remember that deal with the Catholic church? The government paid 1.2 billion to people abused by religious orders, and the church paid one tenth of that figure.
Take it back from the church. Take back the whole lot from the people who did the abusing, and there you have 1.2 billion straight away. If they complain, tell them we live in a changed world and the country is in trouble. Remind them of their duty.
Then, when we’ve taken back that money, let’s go and talk to Shell Oil. Let’s tell them the gas in the Corrib field belongs to us, the Irish people, and if they want it they’ll have to pay for it, instead of taking it free, as agreed by the crooked minister of the day, Ray Burke. If they complain, tell them we live in a changed world and the country is in trouble. Remind them of their duty.
What’ll we call that? Let’s say 14 billion.
Excellent. There’s fifteen billion saved without having to sack a single street-sweeper, nurse or fireman.