Sunday, 14 December 2008

Towards a New Economic Narrative - Debating the Way Forward

Irish Left Review is a superb site for all kinds of left wing discussion on issues such as crime and justice, education, health and media, amongst a vast array of other issues. But where it shines best is in the area of promoting and provoking left wing economic debate.

Michael Taft, who baulks at being called an economist but is certainly one of the foremost left wing Irish bloggers, includes the always-readable and eternally-useful "Recession Diaries" on both his own blog - Notes on the Front - and ILR. His most significant intervention into the debate on the current series of economic and fiscal crises came with a 10-point plan entitled 'Towards a New Economic Narrative.' It is, for me, the first significant attempt to provide not just a left critique of the last few months, but to provoke debate on a new way forward for left economics arising out of it.

You don't need to be an economist to read it. It's accessible, easy-to-read and digestable. Micahel summarises it as follows;

So there you have it:

  • Overcoming the fiscal trap by borrowing, taxing capital assets and opening up the Pension Reserve Fund to infrastructural and enterprise investment
  • Increasing demand and consumption through a new pay deal, extension of welfare benefits, anti-inflation measures
  • Putting our enterprise base on a new footing through a new Green deal, opening up new investment streams, an Enterprise Guarantee and new models of public economic activity.

Do with these proposals what you will. Improve on them. Come up with better ones. Add and subtract.

But it's worth reading in its entirety for anyone even mildly interested in how to get out of this mess - and let's face it, that's all of us.

It's worh noting that this is not a fait accompli. Michael podcasts on it here to explain that this needs to be the start of the debate, not the end. And the first major response is similarly significant. Terrence McDonough, of the NUIG Economics Department, responds here to note that "[o]nly socialism will get us off this long run roller coaster." Even Dan Boyle of the Greens has made a response, putting great faith in the ongoing Commission on Taxation to resolve the outstanding inequities in the taxation regime.

The most important thing for us all, though, is not merely to read the opening volleys of the debate, but to put our own views forward. The trained economists, the stockbrokers, hedge fund managers, professors and department heads got us into this with little warning - so it's clear that academic or other expertise is not required to take part in this broad debate. What is needed, right now, is a new commitment to an economics of equality that leaves neoliberalism confined to the history books. How we achieve that is a question for us all.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Press Release - Local Teacher Launches Hard-Hitting “Putting Kids First” Campaign

Dermot Looney, the Labour Party candidate in Tallaght Central for next year's local election, has launched a local campaign to defeat the vicious primary education cuts announced in last month's budget.

Looney, who is based in the Greenhills part of the ward but is a primary school teacher in Tallaght, said that children in working families and those who most need extra support are being targeted by a "failing Government with failed ideas." Looney launched the campaign on national TV with a speech at the Labour Party Conference in Kilkenny live on RTÉ One on Saturday, November 29th.

Looney's campaign, "Putting Kids First," focuses on the local impact of decisions to increase class size, cut pupil support programmes and reduce the spend on those most at risk through cuts in the School Completion Programme, the Traveller Capitation Grant and similar schemes.

Looney has contacted teachers and parents' associations in all the primary schools across the new Tallaght Central Ward, which includes parts of Dublin 12 such as Greenhills and Perrystown and parts of Dublin 6w such as Templeogue and the WORK area, as well as Tallaght. In total, more than 50 schools and associations have been contacted as well as local INTO representatives.

"I am asking teachers, staff and parents from across the ward to join with me and the Labour Party in putting children first by building a broad campaign," said Looney in a letter to local schools and parents' groups. "Turn your anger into action by joining with us."

Commenting in advance of the December 6th march by parents and teachers in Dublin City Centre against the cutbacks, Looney slammed Government attacks on language support, the School Completion Programme, funding for Traveller children, the free book scheme, library books and ICT grants as well as the "incredulous" policy to increase class sizes for children.

Looney also criticised hypocritical commentary by other conservative parties and politicians, noting that "a lot of politicians are all blow and bluster in talking about these cuts. Fine Gael have come out against the increase in class size but, without a hint of irony, lash into public sector workers such as teachers and school staff and favour the cutting of teachers' pay. Teachers and pupils deserve better – representation that cares."

"Our campaign won't succeed overnight. We'll need a combined effort across politics, civil society and the media. We need to work with parents' groups, the INTO, unions representing SNA's such as IMPACT, and with other political groups and figures. But if we fail to campaign now," concluded Looney, "these decisions will become an immovable part of our educational future. And this generation will have failed those who come behind."

Monday, 1 December 2008

Press Photo Release - Looney in Tune at Labour Conference

Labour's Dermot Looney, a candidate for next year's local elections in the Tallaght Central Ward which includes Greenhills, Templeogue and Tallaght, leads delegates in singing "The Red Flag" at the Labour Party Conference in Kilkenny on November 30th.

"The Red Flag," written by Jim Connell from County Meath, is an international socialist standard and was adopted as the official anthem of the Irish Labour Party on Looney's proposal in 2007.

Looney, who is an avid folk musician and singer and whose influences include Christy Moore, Luke Kelly and Billy Bragg, was featured on RTÉ's 6.1 News leading the thousand delegates in closing the Conference.

Picture by Shauneen Armstrong.