Hammering Ireland

by MIKE WHITNEY

The terms of the EU/IMF’s €85 billion ($113 billion) bailout for Ireland are much worse than analysts had anticipated. Ireland will be required to use its National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) to shore up its insolvent banks and to maintain government operations. At the same time, senior debt-holders will not share any of the losses brought on by the banks reckless lending. According to Bloomberg News, "Prime Minister Brian Cowen told reporters there had been no support in talks to ask senior bondholders to lose part of their stake on loans made to Ireland’s debt-crippled banks." Thus, 100 percent of the EU/IMF’s €85 billion "Financial Rescue Package" will be paid for by Irish taxpayers.

This is a very bad deal. Irish workers have already endured nearly 3 years of depression-type conditions with shrinking wages, soaring unemployment and dwindling home equity. Now Brussels is taking aim at pensioners to save bondholders in Berlin and Paris from any losses on their bad bets. And that’s not all. Here’s an excerpt from the government’s statement:

"The facility will include up to €35 billion to support the banking system; €10 billion for the immediate recapitalisation and the remaining €25 billion will be provided on a contingency basis. Up to €50 billion to cover the financing of the State…..If drawn down in total today, the combined annual average interest rate would be of the order of 5.8% per annum."

This is nothing but extortion. If Ireland wants to put its banks on solid footing, there’s a way to do it that doesn’t involve years of debt-slavery for its people. The government can underwrite the banks with a €10 billion loan from the Pension Reserve Fund that will guarantee deposits while the banks are nationalized and restructured. It is an excruciating process, but it’s been done many times before. Ireland does not have to accept indentured servitude if it chooses not to.

And why would the government even consider paying an interest rate of 5.8% per annum? Interest rates should be the same as they are for the banks; 1 percent. Should a sovereign nation get a worse interest rate than a crooked banker who ripped off millions of investors?

Besides, Ireland is in the drivers seat. It’s Ireland that should be making the demands, not the IMF or the EU. After all, the government currently owes the European Central Bank more than €130 billion. If the ECB wants to get its money back, it should be flexible about the conditions. Otherwise, Ireland can simply cut off negotiations and let the ECB hire a collection agency. See what good it does them.

Here’s more from the government’s statement:

"The Programme for Support lays out a detailed timetable for the implementation of the measures contained in the National Recovery Plan….The Programme has two parts – the first part deals with bank restructuring and reorganisation and the second part deals with fiscal policy and structural reform."

(Note–Bank restructuring is a moot point. Ireland can use its own national pension fund to guarantee deposits and underwrite loans.)

"The Programme endorses the structural reforms contained in the Plan which will underpin a return to sustainable economic growth over the coming years….The Programme endorses the Irish Government’s budgetary adjustment Plan of €15 billion over the next four years, and the commitment for a substantial €6 billion frontloading of this plan in 2011….The adjustment will be made up of €10 billion in expenditure savings and €5 billion in taxes…."

In other words, more penance for the victims. More belt-tightening, higher unemployment, more foreclosures, fewer social services, slower growth, and an ever-deepening slump. And for what? To be a member-in-good-standing in Brussel’s Banktopia?

German chancellor Angela Merkel had been pressing other EU leaders to create a framework in which senior debt-holders would share losses with taxpayers in the future. On Sunday, Eurogroup Ministers announced the creation of a European Stability Mechanism (ESM) which was designed to address Merkel’s concerns. It works like this: If a member state appears to be insolvent, then they must agree to a "restructuring plan" that may involve haircuts for bondholders. So far, so good, only that’s not the way the ESM will work. Here’s an excerpt from the Statement by the Eurogroup which explains why:

"This would enable the creditors to pass a qualified majority decision agreeing a legally binding change to the terms of payment (standstill, extension of the maturity, interest-rate cut and/or haircut) in the event that the debtor is unable to pay……We restate that any private sector involvement based on these terms and conditions would not be effective before mid-2013." Statement by the Eurogroup, Financial Times)

So, an insolvent country (like Ireland) would need to get "majority" approval before it could declare bankruptcy. How’s that going to work if the other countries are only interested in protecting their own bondholders? Surely, they would block the process.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the Eurogroup, more or less admitted that the ESM was a fraud when he said that "private creditors would be forced to take losses only if ministers agreed unanimously that the country had run out of money." (Bloomberg) There’s no way that German government officials would allow a country like Ireland to declare bankruptcy if its own banks stood to lose billions of dollars. (which they would)

This should remove any doubt about whose interests are really served by the Eurogroup.

Prime Minsiter Brian Cowen has sold out Ireland bigtime. The so called "rescue package" should have been rejected outright. It merely provides shady bankers with more money for speculation while condemning the rest of the population to years of grinding poverty and high unemployment. It’s a "lose-lose" situation. Here’s a blurp from a post titled "Ireland is Bankrupt…letter from an Irish citizen" which seems to sum up the mood pretty well:

"It doesn’t matter that we struggled for 800 years to achieve independence, that millions died in the process; it doesn’t matter that the folk memory of harsher times is still very much alive; none of this mattered to the few generations that have dismantled our country institution by institution and thrown the Irish people to the wolves….. Our political system is in ruins. The people have lost all faith in their elected representatives. They feel that welfare for the wealthy, bailouts for crooked corporations and rewards instead of punishments for embezzlement and thievery is the rule of the land. … Our independent republic is less than a century old and already it’s in smithereens — we’re in the gutter and being dictated to by the UK, Germany, France and the IMF. Mr. Ajai Chopra is our new vice-chancellor, our new Taoiseach, our new overlord and big boss and we’ve just been recolonized, first by our own brood of inbred gangsters and now by international bankers….

…But the blame game serves no useful purpose now: we’re all fucked." (Ireland is Bankrupt…a letter from an Irish citizen", angrybearblog.com)

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state and cvan be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com

 

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times