Saturday 18 November 2017

‘Til debt forgiveness do us part divides the country

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Not since the question of Who Shot JR has the country been so divided on an issue as we are on the "debt forgiveness" issue.

Of course, it doesn't help for lots of people that it's called debt forgiveness. While this stops short of calling it free money, or winning the Lotto, it still sounds like a fairly positive thing. Debt forgiveness sounds like something that comes with an indulgent smile, a pat on the head and a "run along now you little rascal and don't ever borrow 20 times your annual income to buy a two-bedroom apartment again".

But the real driver of people's opinions on debt forgiveness is a wide variety of personal circumstances. If you are, for example, an economist, your opinion on debt forgiveness is likely to be driven by what other economists think. The first question many economists will ask themselves on any major question is "What would Morgan do?" Indeed, if you look carefully you will notice that many economists wear little wristbands with the letters WWMD on them.

Then, depending on where said economists stand on the big economic question of the day -- Morgan Kelly -- they will decide whether or not they agree with debt forgiveness, which in reality means whether they agree or not with Morgan Kelly as a concept and whether they think Morgan gets a little bit too much attention and too much credit. After all, how can these nerds stay in showbiz if they don't continue to adopt positions, and if those positions do not disagree with other positions?

And then there are the older economists who probably don't have negative equity and who were prescient enough not to let their kids buy houses. They have conducted an extensive study of all the issues, and they are against debt forgiveness, because there's nothing in it for them and under debt forgiveness all the benefit of their foresight would get whittled away.

Politicians don't know what they think about it. But that's OK. Because Irish politicians no longer have to have any opinions on anything or make any decisions of their own. So they just need to keep saying suitably vague things about it while claiming they are waiting for a report on the matter. Of course, the only report they are waiting for is from Germany, via the tall Hungarian in the Department of Finance. He'll tell them what to do.

The banks, for their part, are terrified of forgiveness and wish it would go away. They were hoping to quietly keep all that money we gave them to make up for bad debts/debt forgiveness and triumphantly declare it as profit in a couple of years. This could ruin everything for them.

And the rest of us? Well obviously if you're in deep trouble with your mortgage you agree with debt forgiveness. And if you're not? Well, one can only hope you would be enlightened enough to see beyond your personal circumstances to the fact that debt forgiveness will, ultimately, benefit all of us.

Sunday Independent

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