All’s Well That Ends Well or The Art of Talking Much and Saying Little

13 12 2009

A photo essay of a political show.  Photographs: Matthias Wurz

Austria’s Social democratic Chancellor Werner Faymann felt the need to celebrate on Dec 2, 2009 at the imperial Hofburg. Österreich.Gemeinsam (Austria Together) was the title of  Faymann’s speech, the occasion was the first anniversary of the current Austrian government, led by Faymann since December 2008 at the time of economic crisis. The message was simple: all is well at home. Faymann’s skill as public speaker was impressive, evidently inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama in its delivery. But Faymann’s speech – unlike those of the current U.S. President – had only one fault: Staging a political show that demonstrates the art of talking a lot but saying very little.

All’s Well That Ends Well is one of William Shakespeare characteristic plays, first published in 1623; its title refers to a proverb whatever the troubles, as long as the outcome is a good one. It seems that the Austrian Social democrats have adapted the theme of Shakespeare’s comedy, signalling that the international economic and financial crises are well in hand. Business as usual, made in Austria.
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Business Analysis: Rewarding Dishonesty

31 03 2009

This article is co-written by Ing. Werner Krauss – see information below

Toxic Assets Cartoon

Cartoon: © Dave Granlund, www.davegranlund.com

The Problem of ‘Toxic Assets’

“Our job is to fix the problem in the financial sector at the least risk to the taxpayer,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stated the objective on Mar. 23. Supported by President Barack Obama, Geithner unveiled yet another bailout plan for the struggling U.S. financial system.

Rumours had it, that the Obama Administration would revive a plan that the Bush Administration had drafted in September 2008 but put back into the draw: Spending billions of U.S. dollars taxpayers’ money to free the financial system of ‘legacy assets’ – real estate loans as well as securities backed by loan portfolios – colloquially known as ‘toxic assets.’

Those assets cause “uncertainty around the balance sheets of these financial institutions, compromising their ability to raise capital and their willingness to increase lending,” so the Fact Sheet of the Public-Private-Investment Program of the U.S. Treasury, which confirms what has been rumored in early March.

According to the new bailout strategy, the U.S. government will spend yet another staggering U.S. $ 75 – 100 billion in order to help raise $ 1 trillion as to stimulate the economy and ‘flush’ the U.S. financial system of the ‘toxic assets.’

Geithner admitted that this plan fuels public anger as Wall Street seems to benefit at times where average Americans suffer. The financial sector has indeed been a major recipient to previous support: As an example, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) worth more than U.S. $ 700 billion, included $ 25 billion packages each for Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase and Well Fargo, the largest amounts ever given to any bank, among others.

“The (public) anger and outrage is perfectly understandable,” and he firmly added that “we have to make sure our assistance is not going to award failures.”

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Budgetary Giveaways in 19 Hours and 13 Minutes

28 09 2008

Photo: BZÖ Party Leader Jörg Haider campaigning, General Elections, September 2008

When entering the Columbus Shopping Center in Favoritenstrasse on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, the late weekend shopper in need of some groceries or a quick cup of coffee encountered a large crowd of a few dozens of people, gathered around a small podium next to the escalator with a two presenters on stage, right in front of a wooden cow.

Evidently it is the end of the harvest season, traditionally celebrated with the so-called Erntedankfest; and wrapped baskets of organic goodies from local supermarket down below seemed to underline the seasonal festivities, enriched by folk music played loudly over loudspeakers.

But that was not seemingly so, as the presenter announced at 4 pm that the Shopping Center is about to give away hundreds of prizes, which can be won instantly by answering simple questions. A show of hands, or later by phoning in – the right answer presumed – the lucky customer could immediately pick up his prize and continue shopping.

The questions were simple indeed, though subjective at times; and so were the answers, such as “Which is the most popular shopping center in Vienna?” When the response from the crowd was “Donauzentrum” the moderator was evidently disappointed. But luckily the person on the phone, an elderly lady “from the 10th district neighborhood”, took the right guess and became the lucky winner of a coffee machine.

So, as the packed crowd followed each question with full excitement, some of the bystanders shake their heads and murmured that these questions were ridiculous simple and their answers as well.

In the past three days, the Austrian electorate was also presented with a large number of ‘giveaways’. Not least, it is election time, and activists of all political parties were handing out all kinds of goodies, from cigarette lighters to pens and herb seeds, and, of course, balloons for the kids. Those were also noticeable in the Columbus Center that Saturday afternoon as parties still were campaigning on the streets. It was, after all, one day before the snap elections, almost three months after parliament decided to hold general elections on Sept. 28. Read the rest of this entry »