Sunday, March 4, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For


Note: An Italian translation of this post (not revised by the author) has been published by vocidallestero.it , I am grateful to them and to the many readers who twitted and ri-twitted this post, as well as those who expressed their support on Facebook (where I have an account that I do not manage well). All this gave this post an extraordinary diffusion. Thanks also to all those who offered comments: I would rather readers commented directly on the Blog rather than to me via e-mail, in which case I might post their comments under initials or a made-up pseudonym or ask for their permission to enter their name (DMN) .

Indro Montanelli (1909-2001), the prestigious Italian journalist and writer, on many occasions expressed great contempt for Silvio Berlusconi, his character and politics. Yet in 2001 Montanelli declared in an interview: “I want him to win, I make vows and give pledges to the Madonna for him to win, so that Italians will see who this man is. Berlusconi is a disease that is cured only by vaccination, with a good injection of Berlusconi in government [a Palazzo Chigi]; Berlusconi as President of Italy [al Quirinale], Berlusconi wherever he wants to be, Berlusconi at the Vatican. Only afterwards will we be immune. The immunity that is obtained through vaccination” (La Repubblica, 26 March 2001[1]).
In the 13 May 2001 elections the first part of Montanelli’s wishes came true: Berlusconi and his allies obtained an absolute majority in both Houses of Parliament. 
Montanelli should have been more careful what he wished for. His verdict on the man was correct: the lower and the appeal courts in Milan in 2012 and 2013 convicted Berlusconi of fiscal fraud. The four year sentence was later reduced to one year and three months, which he never served by virtue of being over 70, but deprived him of political rights for two years until 2019. 
"He is the most sincere liar I know, for he is the first to believe in his own lies”, Montanelli had said;  he got away with a gigantic conflict of interest (with the complicity of the Left); Marco Travaglio, B. come Basta, Paperfirst2018, recounts how he run the country.
But otherwise Montanelli had been utterly and tragically wrong: the Italian electorate, who had already a short exposure to Berlusconi in 1994-95 and repeated large doses of vaccine with his governments in 2001-05 and 2008-11, still seems inclined to make his coalition the favourite to win the elections of 4 March 2018.
Despite Montanelli's mistaken prognosis and cure, I venture a similar wish, though in different circumstances, with respect to other parties and for different reasons.
At present there is a false, self-styled social-democratic Left, justifying itself by pretending to defend the interests of working people while destroying their life chances with their hyper-liberal, austerian and globalist policies, promoting no-border movements of capital and labour, de-regulation, privatisation, the destruction of the welfare state and unprecedented inequality of income and wealth. 
Inevitably a two steps (at least) process is required to get rid of this false Left and open the Left again to being the representative of working people, of fairness, of the admittance of workers' organisations into governance, of preventing falling wages and mass unemployment, of strengthening the welfare state in all its manifestations, from education to decent health and pensions as well as its current, defective, merely safety-net functions.

If this analysis is correct, Italian socialists and socialdemocrats should vote for the centre-Right, from Noi con Italia-UDC, to Lega, to Forza Italia. They are going to win anyway this time. It is better that they should win well, preventing any attempt by the state to put the country through the repellent mess Napolitano concocted in 2011 and 2013, that has led to five years of illicit and incompetent governance and to the collapse of a proper Left position and Party.

If the Centre-Right governs well then the Left will have breathing space to construct a proper programme, a democratic Party structure, and consolidate its electorate.  They must at least step back from the caricature of the Left of Grasso, Boldrini, and old men like Bersani.  And get rid of all the contemptible collusion in corruption from Rignano sull’Arno and Laterina.  
The Centre-Right might govern well, for many of the programme elements proposed by the current Centre-Right coalition should be in a programme of the Left: lower taxes on earned income; controls on economic immigration into Italy; new relations with the  EU; a revision of Eurozone regulation and management; easing of regulation destructive of providing housing; security at home; defence of Italian interests at international level, etc., etc.  Indeed it is a shame that these issues are not part of the Left manifesto, or indeed of the so-called Lefts' many manifestos. 
A reshuffling of voters characterised by these values should be pursued and implemented, which is very different from an unholy Grosse Koalition of opposite approaches and interests held together exclusively by the pursuit of and for the maintenance of political power against democratic processes.
And if the Centre-Right fails to deliver then we return to vote again (which I believe we will) but this time, with the second step, the second consultation of the people, we can hope to have a real Left to vote for.  The 'Progressive' class and national traitors can stand on their own platform, and not as the pretend Left that is all that is on offer this time.

Dixi et salvavi animam meam.

40 comments:

claudio salone said...

Wonderful piece, I totally agree as to the analysis. However, I wanted to see inside the text almost a hint to Five Star Movement. How could we read this strong and almost permanent political force?
Wasn’t a serious oversight not to pay attention to the roots of M5S in the society and to be happy defining it “populist”?

horst brezinski said...

This has been for me an enlightening comment on the Italian Situation. In Germany, you could have given the same advice, unfortunately, this did not come true this morning when the social democrats rejected the renewing of the Party and voted for a coalition again with the black widow.

Anonymous said...

Sono 40 anni che prova a dircelo, grazie!
https://twitter.com/theBsaint/status/941915928966717440

S.S. said...

I agree with many of your points, but perhaps not the outcome you had in mind!

Michael said...

Interesting, and very sensible.

I am also against Groko. It will be very bad for the SPD who will fare even worse in the next election, and very good for the AfD

Rudiger said...

What do you mean by Centre-Right? M5S+Salvini+Berlusconi? Forza Italia has immediately announced that if Salvini tries to form a government with the 5 Stelle all their joint provincial and local authorities administration would fall. Therefore I expect there will not be any government and we will have to go back to vote.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Yes, Rudiger, this is what I meant in my voting exhortations. But I agree that a government alliance M5S + Lega, numerically feasible, would have serious implications for the survival of local authorities governed by Lega+Forza Italia. An alliance M5S + PD-without-Renzi is also a possibility, but it is unlikely.

But cheer up: the PD has collapsed at last, Renzi is on the verge of resigning, the prospect of a Renzi-Berlusconi alliance has been rejected, Berlusconi has been cut to size and overtaken by the Lega, both +Europa and Casa Pound have failed to reach the quorum threshold, LeU have flopped. Good riddance! Too bad if we will have to go back to elections in a couple of months.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Yes, Horst and Michael, SPD was indeed near-suicidal to join a GroKo, but the likely alternative would have been new elections, with inevitable further SPD losses to 16% and less electoral support and immediate correspondent rise of AfD. They bought time and an important set of Ministries at a price.

Annamaria said...

Mario, we have tried more than once the promises of the Right, as you say, and we should be vaccinated against them. Also, whoever is supposed to carry the flag of this new "true" Left that you support is nowhere in sight. I agree with your assessment of our present Left, but I fear that "the worse the better" does not apply here: the worse is worse, period. In any case we are in serious trouble.

M.E. said...

I found your post very poignant - that after a lifetime of personal and professional conviction you should find yourself quite so bitter and angry as to need to confess to advocating switching allegiances in the hope of bringing about necessary change. I would vote with you if I were there.

Vlad said...

I totally agree. And I voted accordingly... :-)
Best
Vlad

Zdenek said...

Mario, I think we should change Berlusconi with Babis and publish the article in a Czech newspaper. (The only difference is that is already in the government).

D. Mario Nuti said...

I know, inequality and one-dollar-one-vote is inco'patible with one-head-one-vote democracy...

Mario T. said...

mi ha interessato ma lo giudico pessimo

Travaglino said...

I do not think you have won, there still is the risk of a right-wing weak government with the support of parlamentarians bought here and there, or of a messy option of a Renzi-less PD plus LeU plus M5S.You were right in appealing to LeU to make more courageous proposals – probably impossible for the old foxes who have dominated the small party.

In the coming weeks we will witness resignations (with Renzi now both resigning and not resigning at the same time) divisions and reshufflings in the little that has remained of the Left. These would be positive developments if they led to a change of people (I cannot say a generational change, for many of the potential incumbents are no longer young), of approaches and polices.

My intuition and some empirical evidence suggest that many voters on the Left switched their support to the 5 Stars. We need to redefine what is Left. Italy is a deeply divided country, and the division seems to stem not only from the deprivation of the South but also from different views about how and at what speed can a more general social deprivation be tackled.
To be continued…

Barry B. said...

Keeping Trump around … and bringing back Berlusconi may inoculate us … but it is a high risk strategy. Be well. Barry

D. Mario Nuti said...

Barry, the idea of necessary vaccination against the Berlusconi disease was advocated by Montanelli, I wrote on the contrary that it was "utterly and tragically wrong". My wish for a greater diffusion of the disease was both a desperate cri de coeur and the expectation that it would lead to the production of a more effective antidote. A risky strategy, but probably the only option at present.

Bob said...

It is remarkable how most of the so-called left of centre parties in Europe and America have become the agents of global capital and comprehensively attacked the security and living standards of the ordinary workers they used to represent.

Marie said...

Congratulations. But why did not you elaborate more about the Five Star Movement, raised by your first commentator Claudio Salone? "Le mouvement cinq etoiles" attracted in France most of the comment.

Alberto Chilosi said...

Uncontrolled immigration leads to fascism and populism (as I also wrote in my book, but it did not take much to understand this). The PD paid the price of this, paradoxically just as at last – with Gentiloni, Padoan and Minniti - it had expressed a decent government and Minniti was able to control the migrants outflow from Libya. Too late...

And all of Renzi’s whining against the EU and its austerity, that did not allow us enough deficit to finance demagogical bribes, like the monthly 80 euro amontd other things, and set limits to the growth of our debt, eventually strengthened anti-European forces.

It is significant that Pisa, with a strong leftist tradition but with a high concentration of illegal immigrants, ended up sending to Parliament two League representatives. Helas the time is rapidly approaching when our pensions will be paid in Liras by the low purchasing power. God protect us.
PS. Nulla salus sine Europa.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Well, Alberto, Maybe the PD would have done better in Pisa if they had not selected candidates like the illiterate former Minister of Education, who claimed a degree which she did not have, while demanding a degree of primary school teachers, and did not know enough grammar to avoid clangers like "piu' migliore".

And apologies to Claudio and Marie for not commenting specifically on the 5 Star Movement, that was the major real victor of the 4 March elections. Their initial successes were constrained by the antics of Beppe Grillo, the dependence on the Casaleggio co-founder and his son, the failure to observe fully their self-imposed salary constraints, their mixed performance in the local authorities they administered, their hostile and unfair treatment by the media. Their latest extraordinary success, especially in the South, was much aided by the PD debacle and by the electoral promise of a citizen income, which unlike the standard basic income is means-tested and conditional on availability to work or retrain, but has a particularly strong appeal in regions like Southern Italy characterised by high poverty and unemployment.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Claudio and Marie: for a sober assessment of the 5 Star Movement in the latest Italian elections see the interview with Varoufakis in today's La Stampa, at http://www.lastampa.it/2018/03/09/italia/speciali/elezioni/2018/politiche/varoufakis-i-grillini-sono-centristi-non-di-sinistra-pronti-ad-abbracciare-il-sistema-sITqcnkxsME0EYvMfOK84M/pagina.html

Monade said...

How much would the M5S citizen's income scheme cost, and how much the Lega's flat tax, are they affordable realistically?

D. Mario Nuti said...

The M5S Citizen's Income scheme is not a standard basic income, i.e. an unconditional payment to everybody over 18, nor a minimum wage subject to availability for training and work as described by Varoufakis in the interview linked in my previous comment.

The M5S Citizen's Income is targeted to all those over 18 who are below the threshold of €780 monthly income if single (€9,360 a year; monthly income of €1,950 for a couple with two 14-year old), supplementing their income up to that threshold; subject to:

-registration with the employment office,
- readiness to attend training courses or to take up any job offered without refusing more than three,
- leaving that job without a just cause no more than once every two years.

It is estimated that over 9mn recipients would qualify, the M5S leader Luigi Di Maio reckons that this would cost €14.9 bn plus additional training expenditure of €2.1bn, i.e. an overall €17bn.

The Lega proposed a Flat Tax at 15% over the €7,000 tax-free threshold (plus minor further exemptions on households), while Berlusconi proposed its introduction at 23%. According to the Lega their flat tax would create an initial shortfall of €63bn (i.e. €103bn tax revenue from households and €18bn from companies instead of the combined current tax revenue of €184bn from IRPEF-IRES).

They propose to cover this shortfall first of all from 25 expenditure cuts and additional taxes (including €5bn savings on centralised public procurement, €2,5bn on military expenditure, €5bn tax increase on gas prospection, €900mn from abolition of interest charges deduction by banks and insurance companies, €800mn for official cars abolition for hospitals, €700mn cuts in "golden pensions" (of dubious constitutionality). The bulk of the coverage would come, however, from the emergence of the black economy, reduced tax evasion, additional VAT and income tax on additional transactions and incomes expected from the tax reduction.

All in all, a hypothetical Lega-M5S government would have an initial cost - by their own estimates which therefore are probably on the low side - of at least €80bn. See also Il Sole-24Ore, 8 March.

gianfranco compagnon said...

L'ultimo grande statista di sinistra è sepolto in tunisia

D. Mario Nuti said...

You mean the bandit better known as Ghino di Tacco, Gianfranco.

Rino said...

On the M5S project for a citizen's income you have not mentioned the obligation, for the unemployed recipient taking training courses, to work without salary for 8 hours a week for their Comune in social projects.

D. Mario Nuti said...

True, apologies for the omission. And, in fairness, Di Maio explained that the payments would not be immediate but only towards the end of the year - if he succeeds in forming a government, which he takes for granted but is not a foregone conclusion.

amaryllide said...

"il cui programma contiene molti elementi di sinistra,"
la flat tax implica necessariamente lo smantellamento IMMEDIATO del welfare state, il che sarebbe una catastrofe per quella metà di italiani che farebbe letteralmente la fame (o morirebbe di malattie debellate da secoli) se non avesse più pensioni o sanità gratuita. Se questo è un elemento di sinistra, cos'è quello di destra, ammazzare direttamente i poveri per le strade?

D. Mario Nuti said...

The flat tax does not "necessarily" imply dismantling the welfare state, though it makes further cuts likely in order to cover the resulting shortfall in government revenue.

A citizen's income is much more likely to result in the destruction of the welfare state, you pay citizens an income which they can spend on buying welfare services no longer provided by the state but privatised. Again, not a necessary but a very likely implication. As Giulio Andreotti used to say "A pensare male degli altri si fa peccato, ma spesso si indovina".

Clerk said...

Caro Mario, sicuro che questo ragionamento basti a salvarsi l'anima? Come sai bene, sono d'accordo con quello che dici, ma la conclusione mi fa torcere le budella. A volte il "tanto peggio tanto meglio" appare l'unica strada possibile, ma questi sono banditi che esordiranno con condoni fiscale tombale ed edilizio, ridurranno le tasse ai ricchi e quindi dovranno tagliare ancor di più il welfare, non combatteranno l'Ue se non a parole, con B. pronto a vendersi tutta l'Italia in cambio di qualche vantaggio personale. Un film che abbiamo già visto e che non vorrei rivedere. Per punire il Pd (che tanto sarà punito comunque) faremmo comunque il famoso "dispetto alla moglie". Io ho votato LeU (con tutti i suoi limiti e ambiguità) sperando che non vinca nessuno e si vada a un rimescolamento di carte.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Clerk, your wish - of no winner and a "cards re-shuffling" - has come true, barring unions against nature, so neither of us appear to have done any harm. Yours is a plausible strategy and a respectable choice, but my approach has received more support than I expected, clearly LeU is and was viewed by electors as a non-starter, and even the editorial of the latest issue of the Left weekly sees some redemption in a Tabula Rasa.

Pastis said...

Now Look What You've Done!

VociDallEstero said...

Per quanto riteniamo, diversamente da Nuti, che la rinascita di una sinistra del genere richiederà molto tempo, tutti gli elettori socialisti e socialdemocratici possono almeno dire: mission accomplished!

http://vocidallestero.it/2018/03/10/mario-nuti-state-attenti-a-cio-che-desiderate/

D. Mario Nuti said...

Three connected views on the Italian elections:

The electoral split between Lega and 5Stelle appears to have both a geographical and a social dimension: the Lega prevailed in the North and with electors who were already employed, the 5Stelle in the South and with the unemployed, not so much because of the citizen’s income but because of the new faces who did not share the many faults accumulated by the Mezzogiorno ruling elite (De Benedetto e De Paola, La Voce 13/3/2018) http://www.lavoce.info/archives/51843/se-la-condizione-socio-economica-decide-il-voto/

There appears to be an inverse relationship between the reduction in PD votes and the rate of unemployment in Italian regions. C’e’ una relazione inversa fra la contrazione del consenso al PD e la disoccupazione nelle diverse regioni italiane. Marco Giuliani, L’Economia – Il Corriere della Sera 12/3/2018; and Giuliani and Massari (2018), It's the economy, stupid: Votare in tempo di crisi, https://www.mulino.it/isbn/9788815274373#

“The PD is the Party of the Rich” (more the well-to-do): According to a CISE (Centre for Electoral Studies) report the PD is the only party for which there is a significant correlation with a social class: “there is a low propensity to vote for this party in the low and the middle classes, and a significantly higher propensity in the middle-high classes” http://nuke.carloclericetti.it/Pdpartitodeiricchi/tabid/543/Default.aspx. Often highly educated higher-middle classes might vote against their own class interests (as I for instance used to do); but for a better possible explanation see Marco Travaglio’s editorial, Il Fatto Quotidiano, 11 March. https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/premium/articoli/la-direzione/ [pay for view].

Frank said...

Being a rich socialdemocrat, I feel almost dead. However, every November I keep having the flu shot. I hope that Travaglio and his friends will not forbid the vaccines…

Ron said...

"an inverse relationship between the reduction in PD votes and the rate of unemployment in Italian regions"? Surely you mean a DIRECT relationship between the two?

D. Mario Nuti said...

Thanks, Ron. I simply translated the caption used by Giuliani in the Corriere della Sera, who called "contrazione" the ratio between the PD 2018 vote and the corresponding 2013 vote, which indeed exhibited a ccontraction. But of course you are right, Giuliani should have called it the CONTRACTED PD VOTE, which falls at higher rates of unemployment, or spoken of a "direct" relationship as you suggest. Thanks for the correction.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Do not blame me, Pastis. Blame instead Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Mandelson ("We do not mind people getting intensely filthy rich"), Tony Giddens and all the other traitors who destroyed the Left from within.

Clerk said...

Fieri di Leu no di sicuro, lo sai bene che li ho votati per disperazione.

Il risultato è il meno peggio che potesse succedere. Se fa un governo di minoranza la destra non potrà concludere niente, dovrà obbedire all'Ue e alla prossima prende legnate; se rimane lo stallo e si rifanno le elezioni tutti daranno la colpa al Pd che scenderà ancor dippiù; se il Pd appoggia 5S (non credo) farà la fine di tutti quelli che "appoggiano", vedi i lib in UK e la Spd. Insomma, Renzi continuerà a raccogliere quello che ha seminato, cioè cacca. Al prossimo giro, governo 5S: per fortuna il loro Roventini mi sembra buono.