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How To Be A "Think Tank"

by afew Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 09:51:41 AM EST

Some people get paid astounding amounts of money. Some people get handsome salaries. Whether the 27 European Commissioners should be paid what they are paid (rather in the handsome than the astounding bracket) is moot. Arguing about that is not the point of this post (though you can always do that in comments if you like).

In the Salon, In Wales linked to a EUObserver article, Think-tank blasts EU commissioners' pensions package. In fact, the think tank referred to, Open Europe, is said to have produced "a report" detailing salaries, allowances, and pensions, not just pensions alone.

There's a press release on the Open Europe site, and it's the one used by Elitsa Vucheva for the EUObserver piece.

EU Commissioners to take home more than 1 million each on leaving office

New research from Open Europe has found...

EUObserver is uncritical of the "research", but it does include a link to the EC's financial entitlements statement, publicly available on the Commission's site. It's a one-page pdf. "Researching" that document by producing a simple spreadsheet (.xls) from it, is what Open Europe did (and that's the "report").

How does it work?


Column A: list the commissioners.

Column B: using the EC entitlements document: The basic salary of a member of the Commission is currently (since 1 July 2008) 19,909.89 per month (the five Vice-Presidents earn 22,122.10, the President earns 24,422.80). , calculate the annual by multiplying by 12.

Columns C and D: again from the EC document: Commissioners are entitled to a residence allowance of 15% of their salary. Commissioners are entitled to a monthly entertainment allowance of 607 (Vice-Presidents receive 911.38, the President receives 1418.07), calculate the annual by multiplying by 12.

Column E: multiply columns B, C, and D by the number of years of presence, 5 for most commissioners. Don't take into account that you are using 2008-2009 figures for previous years. Tot up all the salaries and allowances and reach a grand total of 40.7m for the Barroso Commission.

Column H: using EC entitlements document: Upon leaving office, Commissioners are entitled to a resettlement allowance of one month's salary, display that amount (Column B/12)

Column I: EC entitlements: A transitional allowance is paid for three years, beginning on the day after leaving office. This allowance is between 40% and 65% of the final basic salary, depending on the length of service, calculate the value of that allowance on the basis of 50% for a 5-year stint

Column J: from EC entitlements: the pension is calculated as 4.275 % of the basic salary for every full year in office, calculate the annual future pension rights

Column K: take 16.5 years as the average further life expectation at 65, and multipl the annual pension by that number. Make a grand total of H, I, K to find 36m .

Add the two totals to say that the Barroso Commission cost 76m over 5 years. (Do not mention that salaries and pensions are subject to Community income tax at rates from 8% to 45%. Do not mention that transitional allowances are capped, as are pensions, as per EC entitlements document).

Now write a press release. Say:

Open Europe - independent think tank calling for radical reform of the EU

European Commissioners leaving office later this year will receive more than 1 million each in pension payments and so-called 'transitional' and 'resettlement' allowances.

playing on the future tense, "will", making it sound as if future pension payments (calculated on an average of 16.5 years) are paid out immediately on leaving office.

(In fact, if the future pension rights and future transitional allowances are stripped out, the salaries and allowances cost of the Barroso Commission over the past 5 years runs to 41.3m, or a little over 8m a year).

Pepper your press release with "payouts" "pay-offs", "perks" (4 times), "ample pension" (that one's 860 a month), point out how much women are getting in particular, bring in a comparison with how much the POTUS is officially paid, and add the following:

Open Europe - independent think tank calling for radical reform of the EU

Open Europe Analyst Sarah Gaskell [note by afew: possibly the person who spent a month slaving over the spreadsheet] said:

"Even Sir Fred Goodwin would be impressed at the size of the pensions that Commissioners are walking away with."[note by afew: Sir Fred Goodwin's famous pension will amount to over 750K a year, while the commissioners are mostly on 50K...]

"Taxpayers around Europe, whose pensions have been swallowed up in the recession, will rightly question why they are footing such an enormous bill for a handful of remote officials who they never voted for in the first place."

"It is a topsy-turvy world when an unelected EU official is earning the same wage as the democratically elected President of the United States."

You then get UK tabloid coverage like this:

EU chiefs' 1million pay-off | News | News Of The World

EU fat-cat beauraucrats will pick up 1 million golden parachutes to cushion the blow when they quit Brussels this year.

With 20 of Europe's molly-coddled 27 Commissioners set to stand down in November, the total payoff pot will hit an astonishing 23.8 million.

And an uncritical piece in the wonderful EUObserver...

(Open Europe claims to be independent and to be funded by individual donations. It is backed by a long list of leading figures in the British business world. )

Display:
They certainly know how to produce nitty-gritty points for journalists. Compare to Fred Goodwin (big news in the UK), compare to Barack Obama, talk about how much women are getting, above all, hit the pensions gong because that one is hurting people right now everywhere: savings going up in smoke.  
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 10:00:03 AM EST
The openeurope link is broken.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 10:14:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, fixed.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 10:38:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now there an interesting group

This was written in the Times by their former Director to influence the Irish referendum

It's a stitch-up. But don't say you weren't warned. Politicians are determined to get a Yes vote to the Lisbon treaty. It's all there in the leaked memo detailing conversations between the mandarins in Iveagh House and the British government.

We now know that the referendum was brought forward from October to the summer because the Irish government was worried that after June there would be "unhelpful developments during the French presidency -- particularly related to EU defence".

Strangely they appear to be run out of a building called 'Faith House' which is otherwise a Christian Bookshop and religious vestments supplier.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 10:51:23 AM EST
This is not helping...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 10:52:14 AM EST
Tell you what. Let's open a think tank of our own (I already have the spreadsheet app), get some funding and publish scathing diatribes. We'll be invited to conferences (think free lunches), appear as distinguished commentators on the news, and generally sit in the catbird's seat.

Cheer up. It's a natural. :)

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:07:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've got a spreadsheet? Wow, let's do it! ;)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:10:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What billionaire do we write to though?

and what do you think he'll want us to think?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:11:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. This is America, where anyone is free to make as big a fool out of oneself as you want. Got any data we can steal and rework? My excel spreadsheet can make charts!

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri Mar 27th, 2009 at 02:37:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it would cheer you up...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 11:11:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mmm OK I am about to sound silly, but then I haven't been following the past few weeks...

The title of your post is just rethoric, right? Not actually informative?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:02:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/3/21/711440/-depressed

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been trying to make the point that Think Tanks are basically PR machines for years now here.

I'm not surprised that the analysis is trite. I'm not surprised that it got media attention.

I am surprised - and depressed - that we haven't done the same yet, when it's literally this easy. (If not easier.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:31:40 PM EST
I've been trying to make the point that Think Tanks are basically PR machines for years now here.

I don't recall anyone disagreeing with that. On the contrary, we(ve all been saying it for years.

There are however differences, not in the essential raison d'être, but in the level of Seriousness™ displayed - most think tanks put up a public face composed of experts and academics and get advisory boards of public figures. Which we haven't got. Even these spreadsheeters have a long list of Sir this and Sir that backing them. And that is a good deal of the reason why they get media attention: if we pull this kind of trick, expect disappointment.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 12:57:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so...where are we, anyway...one dedicated person and a small amount of money? Afew for Think Tank dude!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 04:16:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think, therefore I tank?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 04:35:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read a lot from think tanks. Think tanks do much of the heavy lifting in foreign policy circles, mostly because they fund studies. For all that, the material coming out of think tank/journals is 90% either mediocre or pushing someone's agenda. Republican think tanks are where good, sound Republicans in the that are thrown out of office, frequently wind up to fill out their CV's.

Rarely, one reads in Foreign Affairs a thought provoking piece like Jerry Muller's "Us or Them?" article on ethnicity, or "Clans, Authoritarian Rulers, and Parliaments in Central Asia" by S. Frederick Starr of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Project. That occasional article of quality is what I keep going back to them for. Foreign Affairs is where the heavy hitters in US foreign policy publish (for the credibility cache), but other than trying to suss out the thinking of a sitting Secretary of State, it's seldom anything but pushing the agenda. Both Clinton's and Obama's papers published in Foreign Affairs were nothing but electioneering pap, utterly forgettable, and were virtually identical anyways.

I hate like hell to admit this, but much of the best material I come across comes from Rand. There seems to be a culture of empiricism there.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri Mar 27th, 2009 at 02:32:47 AM EST


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