Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blogging The Big Italian Debite

Silvio Berlusconi and Romani Prodi are debating on Italian TV

The “moderator” is Clement Mimum (read <)

First topic: Romani Prodi wants to cut payroll taxes (this is a very important issue). He claims that electing the center left will make this possible largely because of a reduction in tax evasion. This might not sound plausible, but he is supported by the data which show surprisingly high tax receipts when the center left was in power and surprisingly low receipts when the center right was in power (later he notes that tax receipts plus receipts from the many tax amnesties under Berlusconi is lower than forecast tax receipts). He is too polite to mention that the hugest case of demonstrated tax evasion in Italy was that of Berlusconi’s firm.

Berlusconi denounces Prodi for introducing IRAP (a tax on small firms) which he claims is like a payroll tax. He also says Prodi can only reduce payroll taxes 3% not 5%. Finally Piero Fessino (head of the largest opposition party) said the reduction is to be over 5 years not one year (thanks Pieroni).

Prodi notes that Berlusconi has had 5 years to change IRAP and has not touched it. Also for some reason he discusses whether the EU will judge IRAP an allowed tax.

Berlusconi goes back to Prodi and says that today the EU declared the IRAP illegal (help from Brussels)

To Berlusconi on how is the economy going (badl) he said we focused on inflation and talks about the Euro.

Prodi notes that there has been more inflation in Italy than other Euro countries so Italy has lost competitiveness and that the center right wanted a conversion rate with the Euro 1,500 lire/euro not about 2,000 which would have destroyed Italy (true)

Berlusconi who just bragged about the inflation rate claims the government has no influence over prices.

The deficit. Prodi talks about the deficit (which is dumb because nobody cares and people don’t like the idea of dealing with it). Berlusconi claims the center left governments destroyed the Italian budget (from deficit of 10% of GNP to 3 % of GNP). This is such an obvious lie that maybe even voters will notice.

To Prodi how pay for the reduction of payroll taxes (I am reporting by topic). He notes tax evasion again.

Berlusconi on the topic said we send the guardia di finanza to check bilanci (this is amazing as his firm corrupted the guardia di finanza and in 2 of 3 levels of judgement he was found to have been actively involved) and changed the law making it almost impossible to find someone guilty of false accounting soon before being acquited on the grounds that the act was no longer a crime.

Prodi lets this pass. He has not yet mentioned Berlusconi’s crimes or his lies during the debate.

On how to pay for cutting payroll taxes, Berlusconi says they will have to cut pensions or raise contributions from the self employed (clearly he aims for the votes of the self employed)

Prodi promises not to cut pensions.

Immigrants asking for amnesty (under a Berlusconi law). Bad for Berlusconi but he gets to talk about being tough on immigrants a winning issue for him.

Public works Berlusconi brags about man public works. This is in response to a question of one stopped unfinished by the EU as always.

Prodi says unfinished public works are a pure waste of money.

Berlusconi talks about how many people are emploed in public works. He doesn’t even pretend that public works are to be useful if and when they are finished. He is asking for the votes of contractors and their employees. He doesn’t have the concept that public spending is not good in itself. He says that he inherited a terrible electic power system .

Finally Prodi confronts Berlusconi saying that how can he talk about the burden from the past after 5 years in office with a solid majority. He claims Berlusconi talks like a leader of the opposition (as in the IRAP). He says next Berlusconi will blame Garibaldi (first good line of the night)

Berlusconi says this is a total lie as they have done many things (laundry list without even titles of the bills). Since his reply to every practical question related to concerns of voters is that it is the fault of governments before 2001.

To few Women in politics ?
Bad for Berlusconi. He talks about aid to housewifes.
Prodi says he is in favor of quotas for women in electoral lists. This would kill him in the USA but is OK in Italy and required by his coalition. It must be remembered that such quotas exist already in the DS but they are not respected.

Berlusconi claims for the second time that Prodi is lying. I don’t see why Prodi doesn’t reply in kind, since Berlusconi is lying like a dog.

Somehow on the draft (eliminated by Berlusconi). Berlusconi claims that the left is is in favor of mandatory civil service which shows the left still thinks people should do be told what to do.

Prodi denies it then concedes that he does have such an idea.

Berlusconi has a point.

Prodi has not mentioned the recent decline in employment and the enormous increase in employment under the center left (which contintued at a lower rate until this year). He is not criticizing Berlusconi nor bringing up facts which help him. He is (I shudder as I type this) answering the questions. How did this man get to be the candidate of a grand coalition..

How are you going to train Italians for the 21st century.

Long speech by Prodi about this and that ending with how teachers should be treated better (read paid more).

Berlusconi first complains that the opposition has opposed. Then he talks about what great things he has done for the schools. None will be convinced.

Prodi says Berlusconi is being rude. About insults he will not speak as the list is to long. He will talk about facts. Berlusconi claimed that he made it possible to switch type of high schools. Prodi denies this. He says that technical education is not stressed enough in Italy (my daughter is taking off from studying latin to follow the debate and Prodi si totally right).

Berlusconi says Prodi has insulted him and he is polite (the weird thing is that he probably believes this). He says Prodi is the head of a weak coalition (this is true).

Conflict of interest (Berlusconi prime minister and owner of private TV).

Berlusconi says nonsense. Claims his TV is totally unbiased. This is insane. He claims that the left has worse conflicts of interests with the lega di cooperativi. Scandalously all accusations have been rejected by the courts who are against Berlusconi. This is crazy.

Prodi claims the unione is a party (false). On conflict of interest. There are rules against conflict of interest in all democratic countries. He won’t be vindictive. It is not possible to have a prime minister with personal financial interests in everything. Prodi defends the cooperatives (whose members are voters).

I can’t believe it Berlusconi has managed to get the debate about cooperatives. He complained about their favored tax treatment. Prodi notes that his majority wrote the current law.

Now in the reply Prodi notes how utterly absurd it is for Berlusconi to talk about the conflict of interest of the others. My mistake, he was saving the best and obvious point for last.

Someone asks about licences restricting competition in retail. Weirdly the journalist seems to be in favor. The center left massively liberalised this and shopkeepers elected Berlusconi.

Oddly Prodi talks about centralised wage bargaining. He is in favor of it.In fact, he wants to involve the trade unions and the organisation of large firms in making policy (as in taxes pensions ans stuff). This is leading in to saying he is strong enough and dissinterested enough to decide based on the general interest and enact his decision.

Berlusconi says only 3 of his employees are in parliament (this may be technically true but it is totally unconvincing). He only had to leave the cabinet for conflict of interest 4 times (as noted that this was a conflict considered severe by Silvio Berlusconi). On the unions, they are a part of the leftist machine. He claims a second time that 85% of strikes are political. However he has helped many firms to get back on track when they were in financial difficulties. This last point would destroy him in the USA as it would be considered a confession of gross corruption. I think Italians think it is ok.

Berlusconi has run over time so Prodi has 19 more seconds for his final statement. He generously gives it up (he’s timed his talk and doesn’t want to end with 19 seconds of silence<9.

Prodi says Confindustria should be respected more (the association of big firms). He is aiming for the endorsement of confindustria (which would be amazing and is just possible). Berlusconi mentinoed local governments. Prodi says they are burdened because of the messed up central balance (this is obvious). Berlusconi says this is nonsence, but everyone knows it is true. He says “fiscal preassure” has declined. This is mainly due to increased evasion (yay). He says correctly that the left wants to bring back the inheritance tax (why did he mention that).

? Would you assist the USA UK if they attacked Iran (worst crisis except Iraq) ?

Berlusconi excuse me I didn’t hear what country you were talking about. He really said that. This is the prime minister of Italy.

Iran must not have nuclear weapons so we have to use diplomacy more vigorously. The whole world community wants to solve this. He dodged the question.

Prodi first talks about taxes and claims that he won’t increase taxes but rather enforce the tax code and make it more fair.

On Iran. Very dangerous situation. We want peace. In some cases we must act. We will do it only with approval of the UN. He hopes for a solution. Since Iran exports oil, even sanctions would hurt Italy a lot.

He has made the answer about Iraq.

Berlusconi talks about Prodi’s new taxes. Berlusconi brings up Bertinotti (leader of the still communists) who is the reason he is prime minister and not in jail. Prodi claims that Bertinotti has promised to follow the coalizion’s program (true) and that he is a man of honor (false). On capital income they plan to cut taxes on bank accounts and raise them on bonds so small savers will pay less. He asks Berlusconi to actually read the oppostion’s program.

Berlusconi complains about the format. It was not possible for him to explain his program. He complains about the par condicio (equal access on TV which was grossly violated by his TV channels last election and which is still on the books after 5 years of his more or less absolute power).

After much blah blah about how he is not allowed to talk he says he wants a light government which will tax little and values freedom. This evidently is the program which he has not been allowed to spell out. The left are now crypto communist. The communists in the left have been defeated by history so now they are cynical . From this the need to ….

Out of time. See this is a system which doesn’t allow one to finish an explanation.

Prodi says no this is a system which guarantees equally. It is used in the USA. Berlusconi closes whining about how he was allowed no more time than Prodi (after wasting his time complaining about a law which, in general prevents him from monopolising time on the screen as he has almost monopolised control of TV channels).

Prodi we want to give hope to the young. We want to help the weak. We want a light government too. Recall Berlusconi said he wanted to cut the prime minister’s staff 10 fold. Under him it has increased. We want a society which is not based on who you know (connections etc he used a very vivid word raccomandazione which are hated and sought by all Italians).

Amazing. Berlusconi said he lost the debate. I watched Ford liberate Poland, but I have never seen anything like that. Worse, Berlusconi could not manage to behave himself and, at least pretend that he respects the idea of rule which apply to him too.

News program summary.

Prodi says he will cut payroll taxes and fight tax evasion.Berlusconi says Prodi is a front guy and that the center right has enacted more reforms than any other.

They clip starting with the time that Berlusconi talked about fighting tax evasion. The did not quote the bit about the guardia di finanza and bilanci. They give Berlusconi the last word noting ecofin has approved the Italian budget (today).

To me the main impression is of the outrageous bias of public TV making Berlusconi's utterly absurd whining even more absurd. Others might be influenced by the careful editing.


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