Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

The Four Irish Economic Classes: A Primer.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 30, 2010 in Irish Politics

Who creates it, and who wants to spend it?

Who creates it, and who wants to spend it?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Most political disputes, indeed most social disputes, come down to money. Yes, we can have issues over gay rights and what flag who flies where and who apologises to whom, but when it comes down to it, it’s cash that dominates. Curiously, as a society, we don’t debate that reality much, preferring to debate how we would like to spend it (more Resources!) and being pretty uncomfortable as to how it is created.
We have in our society, more or less, four economic classes, and it would do us no harm to pay a bit more attention to their roles in how we live our lives.

The Creators.
These are the people who create wealth. Whether it is writing a song that others buy, or inventing a product or service that others will pay for. It’s true, they need the framework of a state about them which protects their investment and their right to benefit from it, but broadly speaking, they create more wealth than they use up. Some are crooks, and use corrupt practices, but broadly, they bring more Euro to society’s table then was there beforehand. They’re not all millionaires either. Some own corner shops and drive taxis and write chick lit novels. The important thing is that the create money out of pretty much nothing.  

The Value Adders.
This would be the biggest group, covering most of us. We work for someone else, taking their wealth and adding value to it, whether as lawyers drafting contracts or putting cans of beans into cardboard boxes. We don’t create wealth, but add a bit on. Again, our key attribute is that we bring more to the table than we take. 

The Takers.
This is, ironically, the most socially diverse group, from big farmers receiving CAP payments to dodgy bankers to guys making millions merely by rezoning land, to people permanently on the state payroll or social welfare. They bring little to the table, in that most of them pay taxes but take more money from society (and the state) than they bring to it. The key is that their wealth is primarily as a result of the tangible efforts of others.

The Utilised.
These are the weak, and again, not necessarily the poorest in society. They are the exploited, underpaid workers or consumers, the people big business and the unions and the state roll over. The difference between them and The Takers on welfare is that they can actually add value, and bring more to the collective pot, if only they were helped.  

Here’s the problem: In Ireland, only The Value Adders and The Takers are regarded as legitimate. The Creators are despised by the jealous, and The Utilised are just ignored, with what might help them instead going to the better organised Takers.



A pension for the Mayor?

Posted by Jason O on Aug 29, 2010 in Irish Politics

Mayoral Pay and Pension: A chance to be on the punter's side. John Gormley has an interesting opportunity with the Dublin Mayor legislation to deal with an anomaly that has crept into the public service, that is, the huge public sector pensions. The deal was always that although public service workers traditionally earned less than private sector workers, they were rewarded for that with relative job security and a good pension. Fair enough. But why should the proposed Dublin Mayor have his pension paid for by the taxpayer? After all, he or she will earn at least €100k per annum which is good money in anyone’s book, so why not require him/her to pay for their own pension, like most Irish workers?

The minister should put his foot down on this issue and the other nonsense that says that we won’t get high calibre candidates if we don’t pay at least €200k. If there is one thing that the last two years has taught us about Irish public life, it’s that, unlike other countries,  high pay is no guarantee of anything. I’ve been in touch with the Department of the Environment’s press office to clarify the facts of the issue, and they’re normally quite good at getting back promptly on this stuff, so watch this space, because Gormley has a real chance here to stand up for the little guy. 


An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: “Fairness”

Posted by Jason O on Aug 27, 2010 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

Fairness? Fairness? I'll give you a damn good trashing!

“Fairness” is the Scaletrix of Irish politics, in that the debate goes round in circles and circles and is incapable of a new direction. It starts from a simple proposition. We all believe in fairness, don’t we? You’d want to be Jabba the Hutt to be against fairness. Everyone nods sagely at the desire for Irish society to be built on fairness. But don’t dare ask for details, because if you do, you’re a hateful Thatcherite, a Victorian despatcher of children down the mines, their little tummies aching for a crust, a stale crust at that. Or worse still, you’re Michael McDowell.

But what is fairness? Is it fair that some people are going to bed hungry? Of course not. Is it fair that some families are scraping together euros and cents to pay for their kids schoolbooks? How could it be? What about if one of those families spent their money on a kickass 42″ Plasma screen TV, whilst their neighbours didn’t? Who is more deserving of fairness now? What about the mother who works overtime in a launderette to pay for her daughter’s maths grind? Is it fair for her to pay more tax than the mother who’s on the scratcher, after all, she brings home more money, therefore she’s richer, therefore it’s only fair that she should pay more tax, isn’t it? It’s only fair.

But taxing the rich, we can all agree that that is fair, right? Of course it is. Higher taxes are the price of membership of our society, but is it fair to want to punish someone for being successful? Is it fair to want to take half of someone’s take home pay, one in two euro they make, for the crime of creating a business and (the  bastards) giving people jobs? Is that fair? Is it fair to have rich people at all? Would it be fairer to have no rich people at all, even if it meant we were all poorer?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But want to debate the idea? No, because we don’t do debates here, it wouldn’t be fair. 


Anti-AV Tories have little faith in democracy (or themselves)

Posted by Jason O on Aug 26, 2010 in British Politics

Listening to some of the arguments made against the Alternative Vote in the UK is just plain baffling to Irish (and I suspect, Australian) voters. The key argument being used by the Tories is that it will result in a permanent Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. That argument assumes that a majority of the British electorate will always vote Labour and Lib Dem, regardless of how bad the government got. They start from the position that the Tories are in-built losers who can never convince anything close to a majority of their fellow Brits that they might be worth having a go. This is the party of Churchill and Thatcher? Bunch of blouses. They would have given the Isle of White to Galtieri.

The other main argument being used is that AV allows for small parties votes to “unfairly” have two votes, proof if anything that the Tories have by far the best suppliers of psychotropic mindbending drugs. What they are saying is that if you vote Tory in Scotland, and your candidate comes third, transferring that vote to that voter’s second preference is somehow giving them an unfair advantage? Even if it means that the elected MP has more actual support in the constutuency than his/her nearest rival?

The irony of all this is that if the Lib Dems can’t get their first preferences up in enough seats to take advantage of second preferences, they’ll be wiped out. AV could turn Britain back into a two big tent party state, with the Tories hoovering up UKIP second preferences, and Labour welcoming home BNP votes.


Guest Blog: Why should European democracy matter?

Posted by Jason O on Aug 26, 2010 in European Union

Activists of the Party of European Socialists (PES) are campaigning for the PES to hold pan-European primary elections to choose the party’s candidate for the Presidency of the European Commsison in 2014. Declining turnout in European elections, democratic deficit or disconnect and an abiding feeling that the EU is remote and over-complicated all strengthen the demand for more democracy in the European Union. Decisions are made for us, especially in the European Commission, by people with an unsatisfactory mandate from us. The Campaign for a PES Primary tackles this head-on.

The Irish government is utterly overwhelmed by and patently unfit to address the profound crises that Ireland is suffering, but what of the EU’s response? With its eurozone structures, capacity to co-ordinate and lead government action and substantial budgets for regional and structural funding the EU possesses significant resources to bring us through these difficult times. But the European Commission has demonstrated extraordinary lassitude in mobilising a continent-wide effort to create jobs, protect standards of living and promote strategies for economic recovery and growth. Led by José Manuel Barroso, the Commission has shown itself unequal to the task.

The Commission likes to portray itself as a college of independent, supra-national public servants, but in reality it is a highly political institution. Its membership reflects the political affiliations of national governments, and it is confirmed in office by a European Parliament, whose political configuration the governments are obliged to observe in their choice of Commission President. As the Conservatives, represented in Ireland by Fine Gael, “won” the European elections last June, it is their representative, José Manuel Barroso, who was returned to office as Commission President. It is the outcome of those elections that has given us a Commission that has shown such crippling complacency and disregard. Read more…


A Good Book worth reading: The Italian Secretary

Posted by Jason O on Aug 24, 2010 in Books

If you’re a fellow Sherlock Holmes fan, then Caleb Carr’s “The Italian Secretary” will entertain. The central mystery itself, about murders in Queen Victoria’s residence in Holyroodhouse, is only so-so, but where the book will satisfy Holmesians is in the writing style (told throgh the Conan Doyle device of Dr. Watson’s writings) and the relationship between Holmes, Watson, and Holmes’s equally brilliant brother Mycroft. Carr manages to convey the relationship between the three men and the subtle components each brings to the relationship, with the Holmes brothers being extraordinary in their skills of detection, but with Watson acting almost as their emissary to the real world. It’s good, distracting fun.

Don’t forget, by the way, that the BBC’s excellent “Sherlock” is out next week on DVD. If you missed it on TV, you’re in for a treat.

Finally, to round off this Holmesian missive, I wonder did anyone see the funny and quite touching Sherlock Holmes sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look? Mitchell plays an elderly decrepit Holmes in a retirement home, with Webb’s Watson trying to maintain the facade that his failing detective powers are still impressive. The final scene actually brought a catch to my throat, and goes to show that, as Jack Dee, Robbie Coltrane and Robin Williams proved before, comedy actors can sometimes really excel at dramatic moments. Well done Mitchell and Webb.


Serial killers thank Irish media for distracting Gardai.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 21, 2010 in Irish Politics, Not quite serious.

The Centre for Homicidally Obsessed Persons (CHOP) would like to thank the Irish media for focussing so much attention on the release of Larry Murphy. By demanding the deployment of substantial Garda resources to track and follow Mr. Murphy, they have redirected those resources away from catching those of our members who are still active in the community.

On behalf of the serial killers, murderers and rapists of Ireland, we thank you, and knowing that the media is sincere in its wish to protect the Irish public from Mr Murphy, we know that they will continue to keep up this level of coverage about his actual whereabouts at any given time regardless of the waning effect it may have on an eventually bored public. 


A Good DVD worth seeing: Spinning Boris

Posted by Jason O on Aug 20, 2010 in Movies/TV/DVDs

“Spinning Boris” is a (highly) fictionalised account of the adventures of three US political consultants who helped Boris Yeltsin win the impossible election of 1996. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Anthony la Paglia and Liev Schreiber, it’s a light but entertaining yarn of how they helped take the Russian president from single digits in the polls (at one stage he was polling 6%, behind Stalin) to beating the Communists.

One of the interesting claims made in the movie is that they were initally, unbeknownst to themselves, brought in by Yeltsin supporters who wanted to suspend democracy, by getting the Americans to prove that he could not win.

There’s also an interesting scene where Bill Clinton, who is up for reelection himself, and knows that if the Communists win in Russia he can kiss his reelection goodbye, basically allows Yeltsin to slate him at a joint press conference to look tough for Russian voters.

Only available on Region 1 DVD.  


Whisper it: Our health service is actually quite good.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 19, 2010 in Irish Politics

red-crossNoel Whelan makes a very good point about cancer services in this piece, and also a general observation about media attitudes towards health-care in this country. It’s almost impossible to read a positive story in the Irish media about health services, or indeed hear the phrase “A&E” mentioned without  “crisis”, “third world” or “medieval”.

Yet here’s the funny thing: Talk to people with recent experience of the public health system, and you get a much more mixed picture. You still get nightmare stories about A&E from some people, about waiting for hours, and drunks and addicts fighting, and it does seem extraordinary that we can’t get a grip on that. But the fact is, the level of care you get once inside the system is good. I’ve seen it with my own family, in a public hospital. Do we have waiting lists? Yes, we do. That’s one of the side affects of having a health system that isn’t based on whether someone can afford treatment or not. Infinite demand meeting finite resources. Do other countries have lists as long as ours? No, but then they don’t have the best paid public medical professionals in Europe. We’ve created the health-care system we want, and you don’t hear health-care campaigners demanding cuts in the single biggest part of the health budget: pay. In Ireland, illness does not, for the most part, bring the total financial catastrophe that it brings in the US.  

Yet people are almost ashamed to admit it. I’ve seen people shouted down for daring to suggest that Irish healthcare isn’t bad. As a nation, we love to wallow in the idea that everything is f**ked and there’s nothing we can do about it.

When the Dutch were threatened with the sea wiping them off the face of the Earth, they elected competent governments that built dykes and actually made the sea retreat. We rotate the same inbred clowns (FF/FG: The Deliverance offspring of Irish politics) and then revel in what pathetic losers we are collectively. The Israelis don’t forget the Holocaust. But they’ve tooled up to ensure it’ll never happen again. We, on the other hand, almost rub our hands with glee at the opportunity to feel hard done by once again.


Working Class Revolutionaries? What Working Class Revolutionaries?

Posted by Jason O on Aug 18, 2010 in Irish Politics

I'll stand outside the GPO posing whilst you actually pass legislation!

I'll stand outside the GPO posing whilst you actually pass legislation!

“The vast majiority (sic) of MIDDLE CLASS southerners dont want to end partition….But as James Connolly said it is the Irish working class that is the incorruptible heirs of Irish Freedom. The southern middle class and indeed if we are truthful the upper layers off the working class have been bought off by Imperialism and become utterly decadent.”

The above quote was posted on Politics.ie on a thread about whether the republic actually wants a united Ireland or not. I love this quote, because it is absolutely chock-a-block full of the stuff that makes me laugh. Exhibit A: Middle class in capitals, pointing out that a political view held by middle class people is not quite as legitimate as the lower orders. Then the reference to James Connolly, the shake-and-vac of political legitimacy. If James Connolly said it, it must be true! Then, to cap it off, a good go at not only the middle class but working class people who have good jobs. The bastards! And finally my favourite: The use of the word decadent, the ultimate slur, as if basically the middle classes spend all their time at orgies and getting gout.

This quote caught my eye because it reminded me of a row I had once with a councillor from the Socialist Party on Newstalk about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. She could not accept that MT had actually done anything for working class people, and that, more importantly, that very large numbers of working class people voted for her. The quote above is loitering around the same territory, because here’s the reality: The rise of the new right, the Thatchers and the Reagans, is caused by working class voters. Biggest group of reactionary voters who voted against President Obama? White working class male voters. Biggest group opposed to civil rights in the 1960s in the US? White working class male voters. When middle class British voters were voting for the moderate SDP in 1983, working class voters were salivating over Mrs Thatcher blowing the shit out of (working class) Argies.

The fact is, the working class are the most reactionary voters out there. Just talk to Sinn Fein voters about immigration. Which class of voters will remain most loyal to FF TDs for their local graft? Working class voters. In the north of Ireland, what class produced the most psychos, republican or loyalist, willing to blow another working class person away because he prayed the wrong way? I’ll give you a clue: They weren’t shopping at Marks and Spencer.

Who was it who pushed civil rights, ended slavery, brought in gay rights and equality for women? Fact: Revolutions are led by the middle class.   

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