Housing hell and hospital crisis are the result of politics
Yes, those were mugs, the people who bought Eircom stock in 1999 – some of which appeared in a RTÉ One documentary last week. But before you laugh too hard at them, it’s worth noting that the same forces that ridiculed them are feverishly at work behind the current real estate debacle.
And today – as during the Eircom codology – politicians have chosen their side. You will find them now as we found them in 1999 – smiling affectionately at the rich and the cunning, as they quietly bring in the money.
Someone said in the Eircom documentary that if you didn’t buy Eircom shares, by getting a certain winner, “there was something wrong with you”.
No, I did not buy any shares. And yes, smart people borrowed money to fill their portfolios with as many Eircom stocks as they could grab.
And they laughed at those of us who refused to join the greed frenzy. There was clearly something wrong with us.
Here is the Eircom affair in 104 words: the government privatized the stelephone company, imitating Margaret Thatcher’s privatization program.
The cups were assured that buying Eircom shares was like being shown the winning lottery numbers the day before the draw. Just buy, you can’t lose.
Well paid people then made bad decisions and the business was sold from one group of rich men to another. In the words of Judge Peter Kelly: “The business increased its debt each time it changed ownership.
The rich got richer, the mugs shouted insults at Eircom’s board of directors, and it did them a lot of good.
And that was Eircom in 104 words.
The nonsense of the Celtic Tiger, which took place over the next decade, was the Eircom disaster on steroids.
Again, the banks were ready to lend tons of money to anyone who met their strict criteria (you had to have a pulse).
Again, smart people turned out not to be as smart as they told us (imagine that).
And, again, the politicians smiled benevolently as they helped the rich and the crafty offload their debt onto the usual cups (us).
Which brings us to today – and the housing scandal. There is a guiding principle behind this column, and it is this: When a solved social problem continues for years, it is not a problem, it is a policy.
This applied to the health system, the number of hospital beds being regularly reduced to the point of recklessness. Leaving patients on carts for hours or days has never been an unfortunate consequence of a poorly organized healthcare system. It was still politics.
We have as few hospital beds as possible. And when the ebb and flow of patients leaves us short of beds, we put them on carts. Politics.
And today, the fact that a significant portion of our people sleep with their parents, or surf on sofas with friends, or in emergency accommodation or in tents in side streets and alleys is irrelevant. not the by-product of misallocation of resources. Iit is politics.
How can that be? Who would be so cruel?
This is the best part of a decade since we became uncomfortable about homelessness. Correcting is not a big deal. We know how many we are, we can roughly calculate the number of accommodation units – houses, apartments, bedrooms, etc. – which we need in the coming period.
It is predictable that the calculations could be a little wrong, or that there would be delays in construction, that resources could be strained at times – and that we can call a problem.
But the dire circumstances in which so many live indefinitely without a reliable place to sleep are not a temporary hitch. IIt’s a price in the system. It’s politics.
From a) ministerial level, through b) the Ministry of Finance, through c) banking forces who discreetly influence state policy, through d) specialists in “public affairs” who transmit to politicians the thought of our rich, to e) the advisers and consultants who help define policy – housing is not a social matter.
It is an economic engineering factor.
The economy is not organized to support our social goals. Our social organization, including health and housing, is treated as a factor within a business – Ireland Inc.
The consequences of this are glaring.
In addition to emergency accommodation and the other stopshortcomings, we have phenomena like students unable to buy food because their rent is so high. That’s why a student food bank ran out of food last week and had to turn away students.
I repeat the words: “Student. Food. Bank. “There isat one time we had food banks for everyone. Now we sort them by demographics.
We are a low-cost labor company. In France, 8.6% of workers are below the low wage threshold. In Denmark the figure is 8.7 pc, while Belgium is 13.7 pc.
The average for low wages in the EU is 15.3 pc. And in Ireland, it’s 19.8 pc.
This represents approximately 370,000 people.
It is not a temporary phenomenon. These low-wage workers have represented around 20% of the workforce over the past 20 years. years.
They are almost all indispensable people to the economy and to the functioning of society, as we have learned over the past 19 months.
Yet because employers are used to paying as little as possible, these hard workers find it difficult to pay their rent, let alone buy a home.
In the 1930s and 1940s, we understood that we needed a workforce, a workforce needs housing, housing must be affordable according to current income. That is why we had a positive philosophy at the time when it came to social and affordable housing.
We need these workers, they need a place to sleep and eat. The provision of social housing is in the interest of society. But today’s politicians don’t believe it.
Treating people as part of an economic machine – pressured to generate high profits on low wages – could produce a precise set of numbers when investors smile at the accounts, but it produces a crappy company.
We have students who pay rent that guarantees they cannot afford to eat. We have young people who work for low wages, sometimes for employers who steal tips. Or, as we saw in the notorious case of the small change pay bucket, employers who simply despise those whose work enriches them.
This low-wage, low-level Ireland is one of the consequences of the policy of high wages and high dividends under which the Sthe state works.
While rents push young people and families to food banks, the same rents produce extravagant results for others. The CEO of Ireland’s largest landlord had a base salary of € 330,000 in 2019.
Nice work, but nicer to have the € 330,000 in bonus that comes with it, and it’s hardly worth mentioning the € 20,000 in “benefits”.
I wouldn’t think of drawing attention to the € 2m stock options the CEO got when she took office in 2017. Her predecessor, a nice American gentleman, got a total of € 587,000 during her last year in office. He was very fond of Ireland, of which he said: “It’s a big market. We have never seen rent increases like this in any jurisdiction to our knowledge.
And all those involved in this end of the housing case – executives, lawyers, accountants, the army of people who benefit from the Sstate policy to pave the way for the executive classes – are on serious money. And all that money is coming from somewhere – ever increasing rents from the Gthe government does everything to control.
Things are as they are not because of an intractable problem that baffles our leaders. They are as they are because it is politics.