Monthly Archives: September 2008

US Presidential Debate in Madrid

Yesterday’s presidential debate between McCain and Obama was screened today at Casa de América in Madrid. Following the screening, another debate took place between representatives in Spain of the Republican party, Mr. James Levy and Mr. Edward Ruf, and Democrats Abroad Spain president Alana Moceri and vice president Gil Carbajal. It was moderated by Spanish TV anchor Lorenzo Milá.

The screening and debate was organized by Democrats Abroad Spain, and it showed, because when it came to the Q&A session, the occasion turned into a republican bashing event. There were few questions but lots of comments calling McCain a warmonger, or disqualifying him as president because of his past and his family’s possessions. We saw no real questions, and no discussion about political agendas. The Q&A session was simply superfluous.

On the other hand, the analysis and debate that followed the screening was slightly more stimulating. Republicans Mr. Levy and Mr. Ruf answered questions from the moderator without a single attack at the Democratic candidate. They properly presented their arguments and those defended by John McCain. Sadly, Democrats Ms. Moceri and Mr. Carbajal resorted on several occasions to attacking the Republican candidate and provided no additional arguments to support Barack Obama‘s campaign other than the same arguments he presented himself during yesterday’s debate in Michigan.

Speaking of the presidential debate, I must say I enjoyed it. Far more interesting than Spanish presidential debates, without a doubt, it had very nice presentations from both candidates. Although I don’t agree with some of Obama‘s views and positions, from what I saw in the debate I think he would make a good president. Judging from the same debate, however, I’d rather see McCain have the presidential job.

ETA again; rule of law paralysed

Criminal band ETA has killed again one person this weekend, injured several others, and caused major destruction with three car bombs. ETA saw their political brands, ANV (EAE) and PCTV (EHAK), declared illegal just a few days ago, and the obvious reaction of these assassins is to cause death and destruction.

In the mean time, and in light of such clear willingness of ETA to stop killing, the Spanish Government of Rodríguez Zapatero continues to keep in force a parliamentary resolution, initiated by himself a few years ago, that allows the Government to talk and negotiate with ETA, should they demonstrate their willingness to lay their weapons down.

Far from seeing any remorse from ETA, what we see is a Government unwilling to take further action to strangle the power of ETA. Current laws and penal code are insufficient. Despite illegalising ANV and PCTV, town councils governed by those ETA branches will continue to be ruled by ETA, because the law does not force the removal of members of illegal political parties from public office. For this reason, supporters of ETA assassins will continue to rule countless town councils in Spain.

The force of evil here is ETA and all its advocates, but the inactivity of Government makes it very hard to believe that it is on the side of good.

More proof of the crappy Spanish justice system

As the city mayor in a Spanish city once very correctly said, justice in Spain is a joke. A genuine joke. They prove it every once in a while, both on the part of the criminal law, designed to care for and protect criminals rather than protecting society, and on the part of judges pronouncing sentences.

Today, the joke is demonstrated by the fine imposed on judge Rafael Tirado, who failed execute the imprisonment sentence of a known pedophile.

On this occasion, the joke is four-fold:

  1. The investigation on that judge (and about the mistakes that kept the criminal free) has only been done as a result of a death caused by the criminal while he was irregularly free. Had he not committed any other crimes, most likely the judge would not have been investigated for his failure to imprison the pedophile.
  2. The fine is imposed only on the judge, leaving the rest of the judicial system free of suspicion, despite it being responsible for the disastrous judicial system in Spain (loads of cases piling up, unexecuted sentences, etc…)
  3. The fine amounts to a meager 1500 € (some US$1000), a ridiculously low sum, compared to the damage done to society for not executing the imposed sentence.
  4. Justice takes care of itself: they self-impose a little skimpy fine, they pretend to be self-critical, and they seem to hope to resolve the issue just like that.

In one word: a joke. That’s Spain for you.

Spain's fake unemployment rates

The recent unemployment rate hike in Spain in the last month of August led the Minister of Labour to announce that Spain would end the recruitment of foreigners, to have jobs filled with Spanish manpower, and thus reduce unemployment.

The solution proposed by the Minister is action on jobs demand. In order to reduce unemployment, it is necessary to reduce the number of job seekers (act on the demand) or stimulate economic activity to generate more jobs (acting on jobs supply), although of course it is normal to act on both the demand and the supply.

Regarding demand, there are ways of acting on it. The proposal of the Minister is not preposterous, but it ignores a key factor influencing demand: unemployment benefits. This allowance is an incentive not to work: Why bother to accept a job offer that involves effort and sacrifice, if one can stay quietly at home claiming unemployment, even if receiving somewhat lower revenues than those paid for a tedious job? . This reasoning is promoted by unemployment benefits.

Aid for unemployed workers is necessary when they lose their job, but the Spanish model of unemployment aids (as in other countries) is shameful. It is inconceivable that public aid is offered for long periods of time (more than 6 months), with a monthly subsidy higher than they pay of some jobs in the labour market. In its current form, it is nothing but an incentive to stop working and sit down to rest. Indeed, many people feel they are entitled to collect “their” subsidy after working for a sufficient amount of time to accrue unemployment benefits, because this aid comes from taxes they have paid out of their payroll during their period of work. Likewise, there are many cases of workers who want to leave their jobs voluntarily, but reach an agreement with their boss to pretend a fake layoff, so that they can collect unemployment aid. An absolute lack of control allows such fraud of law to abound in the system.

It is necessary to make a study to determine how many people are actually unemployed (those who really can not find any work) and how many are voluntarily unemployed (those who do not want to accept job offers). I venture that the unemployment rate would be reduced by at least 50% should we take into account only the truly unemployed. Of course, such a study is almost impossible to carry out: How many of these forgers of layoffs, or how many of these companies who fake the layoffs will confess?

We must radically change the unemployment subsidy system, restricting it to a period of aid of about three months, gradually reducing the monthly aid amount, and cancelling it completely when the job seeker rejects a job offer. Everyone is free to accept the job they want or even to be picky about it, but the Government should not help if the person prefers to wait for another better job opportunity (whether this means better paid, more comfortable work, or whatever the job seeker may deem “better”). The Government should help only those who need help, rather than helping anyone who will welcome some aid. In this manner, unemployment allowance would fulfil its role of emergency aid to those who need it, saving money and focusing Government’s resources on real needs, avoiding the present waste of money in unemployment aid for loads of people who pretend to need it.

The Ministry of Labour is right in trying to take action on the demand for jobs, but it is more urgent to act by removing incentives to not work (unemployment aid) than to limit hiring of foreigners.